A Purpose in Culture

By: Jean-Yves

As culturally responsible citizens, what is our job?

Is it up to us to say what is acceptable, and what isn’t?

Media; the things that influence us the most. They influence what we think, how we speak and who we are.

How do we affect that?

In March of 2019, a video surfaced of Cardi B openly admitting to drugging and robbing men, luring these men with the promise of sex. As a result, one would think that there was tremendous uproar to this confession. However, there was nothing of the sort. In fact, there was even support on social media, claiming she was doing this to survive and justified her actions. What little criticisms she did receive was oftentimes light-hearted and didn’t address the matter at hand. Are we as a society obligated to voice our concerns with these artists actions? Or should we give them a pass simply because they are famous?

As a teenager, the life I live is saturated in pop-culture and social media. I, along with millions of young adults all over the world, experience culture first-hand every day when we open Instagram. As a result, we witness the cultural consequences of breaking the rules. But where’s the rulebook? And more importantly, who wrote it? An example of this rulebook failing to do its job is in the case of R&B Icon R. Kelly. In 2017 when the sexually charged allegations against R. Kelly started to gain public traction, the public in unison condemned the artist’s actions. These allegations including everything sexual assault charges, possession, and production of child pornography and accusations surrounding a “cult” that he leads. After people discovered this information, an important question that lingered within the public mindset was, “How did we as a society allow this man to utilize his fame to commit such heinous acts?” R. Kelly was able to use his star power as a means to manipulate and violate women. R Kelly’s actions had been public information for 23 years when the initial reports of his cult were made. In 1994 R. Kelly’s marriage to 15-year-old singer Aaliyah, was public knowledge. But because society gave him a pass, he went on to sell more albums, more t-shirts and commit more crimes. This willing negligence of reprehensible actions due to superficial cultural preferences is being seen today in the case of Cardi B.

After the video resurfaced, Cardi B posted an apology on her twitter which was met with little criticism. In a recent video on E! News’ youtube channel, several “cultural analyst” spoke on the issue. While both of the women present condemned her actions there is an overall light-hearted tone to the entire video. The presenters are laughing, smiling and criticize Cardi for delivering her confession over iMessage instead of email. They criticize her for the medium she used to confess her to her crimes, instead of the sexual assault and robbery she had engaged in. The male presenter on the show even says that’d he’d let her assault him. He says that he’d let her assault him. 

Surely the public would respond by condemning Cardi and her actions right? Surely Cardi’s music would be pulled from playlists, surely millions of articles would flood in, denouncing her actions, right? Nothing, no articles, no outcry, people just accepted it and said she was just a woman doing her best to survive. Does she get a pass because she’s popular and this would derail her career? Because she’s a symbol of female empowerment and this would completely shatter the image that people want to see? These passes we give celebrities promote harmful narratives that have dangerous implications. Our decision and willingness to exalt celebrities of their actions enable them to continue. They think because they’re famous they can do and say anything they want. A direct consequence of this social behavior is R. Kelly and the reach of his actions. 

It’s up to us to use our voice to condemn these people regardless of their social status. It’s up to us to make sure Cardi B isn’t the next R. Kelly. These celebrities are often treated as social pariahs when their actions are unearthed, but we have to ask ourselves. Did we enable this?

 

Works Cited:

“Cardi B Explains Why She ‘Drugged and Robbed’ Men.” BBC News, BBC, 27 Mar. 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-47718477.

Clarke, Brent N. “Cardi B Attends the Tom Ford SS19 Show at the Park Avenue Armory during New York Fashion Week in New York on Sept. 5, 2018.”CTV News, 19 Oct. 2018, http://www.ctvnews.ca/entertainment/cardi-b-hands-out-free-winter-coats-in-new-york-1.4141137.

Cush, Andy. “XXXTentacion and Tay-K Pulled From Spotify Playlists.” Spin, 26 June 2018, http://www.spin.com/2018/05/spotify-xxxtentacion-tay-k-removed-playlists/.

News, E! “Cardi B Owns Up to Drugging & Robbing Men via IMessage | Nightly Pop | E! News.” YouTube, YouTube, 31 Mar. 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVHIsoaCfRw.

Savage, Mark. “R Kelly: The History of Allegations against Him.” BBC News, BBC, 25 Feb. 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40635526.