So your favorite celebrity was accused of sexual abuse, what now?

As a disclaimer: I do NOT know what happened between Melanie Martinez and her accuser.  This article does not take either side.

What happens if the artist you love or stan for is accused of a terrible crime?  Do you burn your CDs and merch?  Do you denounce them on social media and vow to never listen to their music or see their film again?  Or do you go the opposite route and stand firm for your “fav”, decide that you don’t know the facts and your position will not change?  These are the questions fans of Melanie Martinez are facing this week after the singer was accused of sexual assault by her best friend.

The answer is not easy and most of the time, it comes down to the devotion to the celebrity in question.  The complexity of a charge of sexual assault is many times the case can never be physically proven.  We do not know who is lying or telling the truth, but we can make inferences based on the statements both parties provide.  In the case of Melanie Martinez fans are left to grapple with what to do when a star who advocates for mental health and healing from sexual abuse is accused of violating someone.  For many fans these accusations directly fly against what they know of Martinez, and for young fans, this confusion is understandable.  Martinez is a voice for many fans who have suffered the traumas she writes about.  Martinez’s music may not be your (or my) cup of tea, but to many teens she speaks about experiences that are relevant to them.  To find out that your favorite artist is an alleged predator is shocking and devastating – especially if many fans do not have a support system.  In these instances, celebrities and their internet fan bases become a teenager’s support system.  So many fans will react in a way that is easy: denial.  They decide that they will never know what really happened and these statements do not fit into what they know is to be true of their favorite artist.

The truth is we don’t know what happened between Martinez and the alleged victim.  There is no way to “prove” the accusations because the actions happened two years ago.  It all comes down to the court of public opinion.  So if you choose to burn your merchandise (like many fans have done on social media) or stand by your celebrity, you should be aware that there will be MANY people who will publicly disagree with you.  You should also remember that despite how “close” you feel to a celebrity, you don’t actually know them.  We truly do not know what any celebrity is really like and for that reason, we can’t say we know definitively what happened.  Sure, Martinez has some creepy lyrics and imagery but does that automatically make her a predator?  And on the flip side, sure, she advocates for mental health but does that mean she can’t commit a crime of abuse?  In essence the decision comes down to you, the fan.  Can you support an artist who has been accused of something like this or can you decide that this won’t affect your view of the celebrity?

If you’re feeling bewildered by the news, I suggest the following:

  1. Remember that your favorite artist is a human and they are not perfect. Regardless of whether the accusations are true or not, this is a good moment to remember that we put celebrities on a pedestal to be perfect.  There is no such thing as an “unproblematic fav” – every single person has done some things that are offensive or mean.  The artist you stan for is no different.
  2. Remember that these celebrities don’t need your defenses or hateful Tweets to anyone who disagrees with you. You can support them without being a dick.
  3. Decide whether you can listen to the artist’s music or watch the actor’s films after what you’ve learned.
  4. Do your research into what sexual harassment, sexual abuse and r*pe is. Know the facts. Now is a great time to get educated.  In Martinez’s statement she says that her accuser did not say no and that they “chose” to have sex. Where does this fall?  Where are the grey areas?  How can you prevent this from happening to you or ones you love? Likewise, how can you be certain YOU do not sexually abuse someone?  Know what consent is.
  5. Don’t place blame. Stay away from sending hateful messages – this situation really has nothing to do with YOU.  You are not directly related to or friends with either party. You’d probably feel terrible if you were telling the truth and thousands of comments were hurled your way calling you a liar.

Whatever your decision is, I encourage everyone to approach every case of sexual harassment with the same level of support and thoughtfulness.  Martinez has said herself that she believed what she shared with her accuser was consensual.   What happens in the future is up to if her fans decide to support her.

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