Chou: Celebrities’ controversial statements are just words

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Chou: Celebrities’ controversial statements are just words

Curtis Chou, Columnist

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Welcome to 2015, world. What a year it will be. Undoubtedly, it will be filled with comings and goings, real news and fake news, authentic controversies and false controversies. It is hard to avoid that strange dichotomy nowadays. The 24-hour news cycle is so intense and perpetual that things that matter so little seem to matter so much. Do you ever get the sense that we live in a hypersensitive world where the unimportant things seem important because someone somewhere in the far reaches of cyberspace said that it was? Woe is the day that a celebrity dips a toe into the all-encompassing news fodder that is anything remotely political. Oh, wait.

I have never understood society’s fascination with what someone famous says in a magazine or television interview. Aren’t these celebrities living, breathing human beings with flaws, interests and ideologies like the rest of us peasants? Yet somehow every word they utter carries a thousand times more weight. We are determined to idolize or vilify them depending on what they say, with shameless disregard for the balancing act they must perform to keep from seeming too fake or from divulging too much of their privacy.

One word in particular seems to set off a firestorm of nagging voices – “feminism.” I say this because it is an issue that seems to repeat itself every few weeks. Just this past week, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, the affable star of “The Big Bang Theory,” responded in the negative when she was asked if she considered herself a feminist. Last spring, Shailene Woodley also shirked the use of the word to describe her feelings on sex equality. The fall before that, Kelly Clarkson said the word was too strong to describe herself. On other occasions, Katy PerryCarrie Underwood and Susan Sarandon have fallen into the trap of saying … nothing particularly relevant, yet the public still found their words interesting enough to catapult them into headlines. And in most of these cases, there was a bit of backlash from those bored enough to notice someone famous said something with the word “feminism” in it and uptight enough to think it was deserving of outrage.

I hate to be the person to say this — actually, I love to be — but who really cares?  Why is it so important what someone else, someone whom none of us have likely ever met or will ever develop any sort of cordial relationship with, decides to label himself or herself with?  So what if these women would prefer not to call themselves “feminists?” How does it affect you or me?  Better yet, why should these women, who have reached their level of success through countless hours of dedication to their trade, care what you think? The real outrage is the wave of ridicule and chastisement found in both mainstream media and back-alley comment threads.

The same could be said when it comes to celebrities’ views on gay marriage, race relations and whether or not allowing a child to briefly stand on a dog amounts to animal abuse.  Let these people live their lives as God (or whoever) intended – free from judgment and persecution.  These are just words after all.  Not everyone is going to agree on everything, of course – that’s what makes human society so great.  This column is not at all an indictment of being a feminist, or anything else.  It is simply to urge the tempering of tired outrage over a celebrity’s words.  Not to do so would mean to lose sight of what really matters – our own actions.

Curtis Chou is a Communication senior. He can be reached at curtischou2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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