Why do we protect celebrities?

Rupande Mehta
Rupande Mehta, writer, women’s activist, health-food enthusiast

By Rupande Mehta

Celebrities are human, so it is no surprise when allegations of sexual abuse, rape and other violence emerge about them. Lately the news has been abuzz with celebrities acting very badly. First Hannibal Buress’ joke about Bill Cosby’s history of rape allegations and now Canadian host of CBC’s QJian Ghomeshi has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women and attacking them physically and/or sexually without warning.

Despite many rumours of women warning each other to stay away from Jian and schools warning their interns not to work at CBC due to Jian’s lecherous and abusive behaviour, it is anybody’s guess why his story took so long to come out. Did the network executives at CBC really not know what he was up to? I find that impossible to believe.

When someone becomes a star, there is a boatload of people handling the star’s image and brand. They are in charge of keeping everything kosher and making sure everything goes according to plan. This means hiding and burying reports of erstwhile and current misbehavior, settling cases to keep victims’ mouth shut, and so on. Basically, they are in charge of doing all that is needed to do to make sure they all continue to have jobs and their “star” isn’t tainted.

Once in a while though, a story leaks out and invariably we hear more and more. Take the case of Michael Jackson, the most beloved pop star in history. Earning recognition at a very early age, Michael, throughout his life was plagued by allegations of molestation and sexual abuse of children – the most vulnerable of all.

Or take the case of Chris Brown who after violently beating Rihanna was handed down the pettiest sentences. Do you think this is the first time he ever abused a woman? I think not.

There have been many more cases when allegations emerge against celebrities but no one takes them seriously and things go on unabated. Woody Allen, Cee Lo Green and so many others, including sports stars like Ray Rice, have been accused of rape, violence and abuse by women but unfortunately no one looks at the seriousness of these crimes.

Canadian TV broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi has been accused by several women of rape and sexual abuse
Canadian TV broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi has been accused by several women of rape and sexual abuse

This brings me to my real question – if we know these celebrities have been accused, why do we keep supporting them? The authorities may cite the case as difficult to prosecute for lack of evidence or a case of he said/she said but when society as a whole is aware of these goings-on, why aren’t we taking action? Despite the seriousness of his allegations and numerous trips to court, Michael Jackson continued to sell records and make money. At the time of his death, he was one of the richest persons in the world and his estate successfully paid back every ounce of debt he once owed. People continue to line up to watch Chris Brown perform and we cannot wait for Woody Allen’s next venture!

I understand these people are talented but that is exactly what we need to use against them. Celebrities rely on their talent to make money and gain God-like status but that does not mean they are God-like and can get away with anything. If we want them to be responsible and show them that their actions have repercussions, we need to stop supporting that same talent they use to commit those crimes and try to get away with.

Life is about making difficult choices and every celebrity has an even harder responsibility to go along with it. Celebrities become role models, often for the young, and we do not want a society where young people think it is okay to rape, abuse and violate anyone. After all if their “star” got away with it, why not them?

If celebrities are behaving badly, it is up to us as citizens to show them the right way. If we put them on a pedestal it is also important to show them we can throw them on the ground if their actions deem it necessary.