Celebrity criticism, helpful or harmful?

Haylee Huynh, Staff Reporter

Billie Eilish, 19 year old singer-songwriter and beloved amongst all generations takes a misstep with the release of her music video for single “Lost Cause” as a part of her latest album “Happier Than Ever.” 


The controversy stemmed from the content of the music video, which portrayed a group of women, including Eilish, playfully hanging out in a cliffside mansion, singing along to the song about an ex partner who was immature and irresponsible. The scenes span out over different times of the day, all the women clothed in silk nightwear with sexual implications in their body language. 


With Eilish being an award winning artist with millions of fans around the globe, the release of her new and upcoming music was highly anticipated. However, the details and nuances found in the music video’s content led fans and LGBTQ+ activists alike to accuse her of queerbaiting, a marketing strategy used in the entertainment industry to lure queer audiences into consuming content without giving actual representation of queer characters and relationships. 


This controversy created a divide in Eilish’s fanbase, some refusing to participate in any media she produces while others continue to support and defend her.


“I was like a really big fan, you know, and then after the ‘Lost Cause’ music video and […] her recent Instagram posts and stuff saying like ‘I love women’ and all that it was kind of like, I was like really confused by that,” said freshman Bee Wiggin, queer student and former fan of Eilish. 


Here, Wiggin is referring to the behind-the-scenes photos Eilish posted on her personal Instagram account with the caption “i love girls” eight days following the release of the music video on June 2


Wiggin also highlighted how Eilish has an unnoticed history of queerbaiting.


“I feel like she gained a lot of queer fans from like, various things she’s done,” they expressed. “And like the song  ‘wish you were gay’, I feel like everyone looked at that and was like, ‘oh my goodness, is this another queer artist?’ But then it actually wasn’t and she kind of was like, abusing the term.” 


Though this sentiment is valid and shared amongst many people, there are other listeners who don’t think Eilish’s behavior was deserving of the level of outrage it received.


“I watched her music video and I didn’t understand why people were mad at it […] mainly because she’s definitely not the first person or first like, female I guess to have a music video like that,” said junior Anais Guillaume. 


She mentioned instances of Rihanna and Shakira in “Can’t Remember to Forget You” and Cardi B and Normani in “Wild Side” where their music videos would also be categorized as queerbaiting if they were held to the same standards Eilish is. 


“In the Normani music video with Cardi B, there’s a scene where they’re also super close and like the music video with Rihanna and Shakira where they’re all close and stuff […] it’s like super hyper sexualized. So like I said this is not the first case of [queerbaiting] nor the worst like when you compared to those two other music videos,” stated Guillaume. 


Fans’ reactions to the “Lost Cause” music video ranges from displeased to neutral between different generations, and Guillaume gave insight on why that might be the case. 


“In the last couple, like, two or three years there’s [been] like teenagers growing up because of COVID and stuff, they’re like, on the internet more than ever. So people who are older who didn’t grow up that way, aren’t, yeah, have a different perspective and they’re not as like, I guess conscientious of that type of stuff.” 


I feel like, people like my age would have the common sense to not really [queerbait] if you’re kind of world famous.” Wiggin said, confirming this theory of younger generations becoming more ‘conscientious’ of the media that they view and consume.


This enlightenment can be seen as both beneficial and harmful, creating space for inclusivity and comfortability while also adding even more criticism to an already stressful industry. 


“I also understand, sort of, how people hold up celebrities to another standard, like, what you do impacts a lot of people,” Dy Nguyen, Special Education teacher and Gender-Sexuality Alliance Club advisor, said. “I don’t know if it’s always necessarily fair, especially with young celebrities. There’s already a lot of pressure on young people and I already see how much pressure you guys have, as young people just growing up and not being under the limelight, let alone being under the limelight for something that you just, it’s a passion of yours.” 


Calling out celebrities or generally anyone present in your life on their mistakes is definitely okay and encouraged, but being mindful about the whole situation is just as important.


“I think it’s okay to say ‘okay I can see why this might have, you know, upset some people’ but I think to throw a label on it without fully understanding, kind of, [Eilish’s] situation, that’s perhaps going a little bit too far,” explained band director Jane Woodman. “I think people are really quick to kind of jump and have reactions and things and I think sometimes that’s really warranted because there’s a lot of issues that we should be getting upset about. But yeah, it’s sort of like […] what does someone intend versus how it actually comes off.”


Message From the Reporter


The contemplation of Eilish’s actions being categorized as queerbaiting is a great step forward into the discussion of honest queer representation in the media and exposure of different types of relationships. However, we also need to collectively recognize the racial divide in this discussion and how representation isn’t always given to people of color, specifically women of color. 


Guillaume made an interesting comment about the reaction to Eilish’s ‘queerbaiting’, highlighting how the media created outrage over the content of her music video while other artist collaborations like Rihanna and Shakira or Normani and Cardi B showed the same content and received none of the backlash. 


Women of color, especially Black and Latinx, have a history of being fetishized in the media; with historical examples and trends like the oversexualization of their bodies and stereotypes that are perpetuated by Westernized ideologies. 


In opposition, white women have been commonly linked with qualities of innocence and purity; the phrase ‘white women tears’–a tactic used by white women to weaponize their privilege–being an example where this profile has been applied. 


So when Eilish stepped out in a lacy pink corset for her “British Vogue” cover and silky nightwear in the “Lost Cause” music video, she challenged that white woman typecast, and her audience became confused and upset.


But with Rihanna and Shakira or Normani and Cardi B, their behavior and clothing choice didn’t receive the same ‘shaming’ or outrage because the sexualization of women of color has become so normalized it seems almost expected.  


What others don’t realize is that this oversexualization can be overshadowing other aspects of identity that artists are trying to express.


Cardi B has been continually open about her bisexuality throughout her career, and Normani regularly alludes to queerness in her performances while also being a constant ally.


But no matter how much they affirm their queer identities, their actions are always oversexualized before they are seen as queer expression. This actively excludes women of color from queer representation in the media, when in reality they are the forerunners of the entire LGBTQ movement. 


This statement wasn’t made to victimize Eilish for being categorized with white women qualities or begin to assume every woman of color who is comfortable with their body is queer. 


I am writing this because I want to bring attention to the inequity of queer representation between white women and women of color, giving space for honest and real representation without the need for outrage or controversy.