Hollywood and the adjacent music industry are notorious for their ethical compromises and refusal to hold their own accountable. While celebrities are called out more and more often for their misdemeanours, highly beloved performers often don’t bear the brunt of criticism. Whilst celebrities such as Kanye West have made offensive comments that demonstrate questionable morality, beloved artists such as Beyoncé, touted for their activist actions, have also made decisions that need to be called out.
Beyoncé recently became the artist with the most Grammy wins of all time, following the 2023 edition of the ceremony , and in her speech, she thanked the queer community. Ironically, Beyoncé had also performed her first full concert in several years just days before, at a resort in Dubai. Perhaps at first glance this doesn’t seem problematic, but if you note that homosexuality is not only illegal in the United Arab Emirates, but is considered a crime punishable by death, her words at the Grammys feel hypocritical. Furthermore, it is reported that she notably didn’t perform any songs from her most recent album, Renaissance, which celebrates underappreciated Black and LGBTQ+ artists. So what caused this discrepancy between the artist’s words and actions? One possibility –– Beyoncé reportedly earned [number] per minute during her show in Dubai, landing at a whopping $24 million total. Perhaps this is the vice that led to compromised morals. Beyoncé also has a net worth of around $500 million, in addition to her Renaissance world tour beginning in May meaning that perhaps she didn’t need the extra cash.
The most unnerving tenant of celebrity hypocrisy is the tendency for celebrities to build reputations upon their “support” and allyship for particular causes, while engaging in actions which demonstrate the inverse ideology.
Beyoncé is not the only artist to compromise her morals at the expense of profits. Ricky Gervais famously scolded Hollywood’s finest at the Golden Globes in 2020, saying “Well, you say you’re woke but the companies you work for in China — unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?” in reference to creatives working for companies that engage in slave labour. He then went further, “So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world,” Gervais’ comments strike home an uncomfortable yet accurate truth: our most celebrated and respected performers often attempt to use their platforms to advocate for social justice yet don’t take their own moral advice when it comes to contracts and profit-making decisions. The discomfort held by the celebrities in the audience holds testament to the unavoidable elephant in the room – that most of them were guilty of Gervais’ criticism. Yet even, despite Gervais’ outcry, he himself is guilty of making anti-trans comments as part of comedy routines –– even those who are prepared to speak out and demonstrate awareness are culpable.
The most unnerving tenant of celebrity hypocrisy is the tendency for celebrities to build reputations upon their “support” and allyship for particular causes, while engaging in actions which demonstrate the inverse ideology. Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, is known as a climate warrior. His Instagram bio reads: “Actor and Environmentalist, “his acceptance speeches often come with warnings to protect the climate. However, he also takes private jets and vacations on carbon-intensive superyachts. Whilst it’s important for celebrities to use their platforms, when their rhetoric veers into lecturing and their actions don’t appear to match their causes, it feels a little off.
Whilst it’s important for celebrities to use their platforms, when their rhetoric veers into lecturing and their actions don’t appear to match their causes, it feels a little off.
So how should society react? Is cancellation the cure? Boycotting every one of these celebrities isn’t necessarily what I’m suggesting, however there is a fine line between ignorance and shunning –– accountability. If Beyoncé’s thanking of the queer community was a half-hearted attempt to apologise for her actions or counter them by reminding the public of her LGBTQ+ advocacy, arguably it isn’t enough. Allowing their action to be reduced to a few news articles reminds them that they are above making conscientious decisions. It seems that celebrities with the largest fan bases seem immune to criticism because their fans can become defensive of their actions. Cancel culture has created a rhetoric where fans have to believe that their icons are either flawless or are bad people when in reality people make mistakes and they can only grow if they improve upon them.
Celebrities, despite being incredibly vocal about certain issues, have historically had a propensity to compromise these morals in order to earn money. Whilst in all professions it’s no longer a rarity to not let financial incentives compromise behaviour, when celebrities create an image of themselves as “social justice warriors” it seems all the more hypocritical. factors and producers boycotted companies such as Apple and Amazon until treatment of their workers improved, positive change could occur. Similarly, if footballers and teams worth millions had been vocal about the ethical issues occurring in Qatar during the World Cup, then at the very least true solidarity could be established.
Whilst we can wait around for celebrities to take the stand that we all want, at the end of the day it’s up for the more morally-conscious individual to hold these celebrities accountable rather than putting on rose-tinted glasses and excusing the digressions of our favourites.