Why do we stan? We asked academics to explain – Screen Shot
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Why do we stan? We asked academics to explain

You might be the type of person to obsess over the British royal family or the Kardashians might be more your cup of tea. Or perhaps you’re actually the type to frown anytime you hear one of their names mentioned. Love it or hate it, there is one thing we can all admit—celebrity culture is huge and here to stay. There is simply no denying that it’s become a large part of our daily lives. But have you ever wondered why?

Celebrities are an integral part of popular culture, there’s no doubt about that. So much so, that nowadays, a lot of pop culture is directly shaped by them. When it comes to the lives of other people, we can all admit that sometimes, we get a little nosy. I know I do, whether that results in my obsessive watching of reality TV shows like Love Island or in my fortnightly stalking of random people on the internet I barely met. I do it, I’m pretty sure you do it sometimes too—we just tend to keep it to ourselves, because there’s nothing charming about getting a kick out of snoopiness. So how come we’ve completely normalised wanting to know everything about a celebrity’s personal life when we already know it’s slightly messed up to expect the same from a random everyday person?

Understanding the history of celebrity culture

In order to bring you all the inside scoops vital in truly understanding the reason why we’re so prone to stanning nowadays, we first spoke to Chris Rojek, a professor of sociology at City, University of London, who has unique expertise in the study of celebrity. He explained that when talking about celebrities, it’s important to make a clear distinction between two types: “ascribed” and “achieved” celebrity.

Achieved celebrity refers to someone who has become famous due to their skill or talent within a particular field. This could be an actor, a musician, an athlete, a painter, and so on. Such individuals predominantly receive their celebrity status, and with it, interest from the public, due to a particular achievement.

On the other hand, ascribed celebrity is used for those who are famous simply because of their lineage, by being born into the right family. The British royals are a great example of this—they kept their relevance for centuries, even after the monarchy lost any real political power. Today, the Queen is still considered to be the biggest celebrity brand in the world. But why exactly? Well, we’re not fully sure just yet.

Perhaps a more relatable example for today’s gen Z ascribed celebrities can be seen through the term ‘nepotism babies’—a term which describes the children of celebrities whose family status’ only further their lives and careers, even if not intentionally utilised. People like the Jenner sisters, the Hadid siblings, or the Beckham children can be seen as prime examples of this. Sure, each one of those individuals may be talented within their own right, but it would be naive to not account for how their family wealth, status and connections have aided the advancement of their careers, and with them, their celebrity status.

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Celebrity culture is not a new or modern phenomenon either—it actually dates back centuries. Some even argue that the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt could be considered as celebrity figures of their time. Monarchs and rulers throughout history, in general, could be viewed as celebrities. Humans seem to have always had an interest in following up with the lives of others (most times, those richer and more powerful than them). A major difference between today and a few centuries ago is that we now have non-stop access to celebrity news and gossip.

Where does the obsession towards celebrity culture come from?

To investigate this further, Screen Shot spoke to Doctor Ruth Sims, senior lecturer in psychology and ergonomics at the University of Derby. When asked about which factor we can pinpoint this interest to, relatability or unattainability, she explained that “the lifestyle is the key attraction,” continuing, “It’s escapism and fantasy, people living lives that seem perfect and where money can buy everything. Of course, that’s not really the case, but we like to believe in fairy tales!”

This concept has only become truer in the age of social media. Today, you can deep dive into the day-to-day lives of celebrities in no time, by simply following their Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and so on. If they eventually give in to the same vicious cycle and decide to share so much of their personal lives with us (due to our constant demand for such information), this results in what is called a ‘parasocial’ relationship.

A parasocial relationship refers to when humans make social connections with the people they are presented with through media, be it from television, audio, or from the internet. These are, of course, not reciprocated as the celebrity does not know you even exist. In most cases, parasocial relationships are normal and common, but it is important to be wary of how this connection you have with a celebrity may be impacting you.

For example, a lot of celebrities in recent years have been guilty of pushing the relatable, ‘I am just like you’ narrative, when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. “The way that younger people interact with and their expectations of celebrities is definitely different to older peopleteens have grown up seeing celebrity social media posts, so that’s very much the norm for them and often they don’t really question the reality of the carefully-curated content being posted,” explained Doctor Sims.

When we do not question this behaviour, we often end up comparing ourselves, our lives, and our achievements to those we see online or in the media, which can result in low self-esteem or body image issues. Escapism can be fun, but it can just as easily be harmful. Especially, when it’s rooted in lies—take the saturation of Photoshopping or Facetuning online.

Are we ever going to stop stanning?

While obsession around celebrity culture has been present for centuries, in recent years, a lot of us have been observing a shift in our attitudes towards famous people. This is particularly prominent among the new generations—we no longer wish to separate the art from the artist, and instead, we demand accountability from our ‘faves’.

We spoke about these changes to Professor David Marshall, Chair in New Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at Deakin University, Australia, who asked in return, “Does that hold our cultures stable, or does it change them? I think it changes them.”

Today, if a celebrity does or says something that is deemed problematic, they are at risk of getting cancelled, often dropped from any brand deals or projects they are involved in. In other words, they lose their relevance quicker than ever before.

“COVID reconstructed the power,” Marshall continued. And to some degree, it’s true—towards the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people lost their trust in celebrities. It, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of the celebrity culture we have come to know. I mean, do you remember when a bunch of celebrities decided to do a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ from their hilltop mansions, in an attempt to lift up our spirits and remind us that we are all in this together? I don’t know about you, but if I have to make a list of some of the most cringeworthy celebrity moments I have ever witnessed, this probably tops it. People don’t want a music cover, they want medical cover.

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As us ‘mere mortals’ struggled to adjust, entered a recession, and went on furlough or lost their incomes and even their loved ones, celebrities reminded us just how out of touch they are with the reality of everyday people—how unrelatable. Of course, nearly two years on, we can see that celebrity culture is still thriving and surviving, clinging on for dear life. But our attitudes are slowly changing nevertheless.

Remember, you may hate celebrity culture, you may love itbut without us, it would not exist.

Why does the internet hate Hailey Bieber? A timeline of the most famous love triangle

“It hurts to be torn apart on the internet,” Hailey Baldwin, now Hailey Bieber, once wrote in an Instagram post’s caption posted in January 2020. Needless to say, being married to one of the world’s most famous teen-pop sensations—the Biebs himself—comes with massive positives as well as undeniable negatives too. The latter includes online hate, and although this type of behaviour is never acceptable, it is still perceived as somewhat okay when it is aimed at celebrities and their partner.

But when it comes to Hailey Bieber and how the internet reacts to her, equalling it to a simple ‘dislike’ would be downplaying it. Let’s be real here, a large majority of the online community hates her—even I know that for a fact, and I’m neither a Hailey Bieber fan nor a diehard Belieber in any shape or form. I just like TikTok, and recently started noticing that my For You Page was determined to show me videos consisting of montages of all the reasons Hailey Bieber is manipulating, fake, and not good for her husband, to put it simply.

Of course, that’s not what I personally believe—I don’t know the model enough to have an opinion on her and the same goes for her marriage to the Canadian singer. And who cares what I think anyway? I’m here to present you with what the rest of the world (or what seems like it) thinks. In order to do so, I scoured the web for answers, analysing the numerous Hailey Bieber hate pages I stumbled upon along the way. Here’s what I found—here’s why the internet hates Hailey Bieber.

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She got accused of being rude by a restaurant hostess

Before I even begin to get into this point, there’s one thing I feel the need to address first. As much as I like to think the best of people, anyone—that includes you—who feels fine about being rude to someone working in the service industry is, I’m just going to say it, a piece of shit. Okay, that may be a tad too aggressive, but trust me, you’re not that far off. Now that we’ve cleared this up, let’s carry on, shall we?

In a series of viral TikTok videos posted by New York City hostess Julia Carolan in July 2020, she rated several celebrities she encountered over the years while working in A-list favourite eateries such as the famous Nobu Downtown. Describing her meetings with the model, Carolan admitted that she hasn’t yet had a positive experience. “This is gonna be controversial,” she revealed. “I’ve met her a handful of times and every time she was not nice. I really wanna like her, but I have to give her a 3.5 out of 10. Sorry.”

In her videos, the hostess also described her meetings with the Hadid sisters, Bella and Gigi. “These two are literally so nice, I cannot say enough things about them,” she gushed. “They’re super polite and friendly with staff, which unfortunately is rare for celebrities.” It should be noted that Carolan also scored Kylie Jenner a 2/10, noting that “she was fine but she tipped $20 on a $500 dinner bill” while her sister Kendall also scored a low 4/10. Aren’t you supposed to be a billionaire Kylie?

The TikTok became viral in no time, raking up over 3.3 million likes and even got a comment from Bieber herself. In the comments section of the clip, the model wrote, “Just came across this video, and wanted to say sorry if I’ve ever given you bad vibes or a bad attitude. That’s not ever my intention!” Carolan accepted the apology calling her an “accountability queen.”

But that wasn’t the end of the subject for Bieber. In April 2021, almost a year after the video was posted, the model shared a two-part interview with Doctor Jess Clemons on her YouTube channel. Titled ‘Cancel culture, mental health & social media’, the video touched on the viral TikTok where Carolan insinuated that she was rude.

Speaking on the situation, Bieber said, “When I saw her video I was so upset. There’s never an excuse for being rude. I felt bad that that was her experience with me, but it made me kind of frustrated because you never know what someone’s going through. I remember going through times in my life where I was so sad, and so heartbroken that engaging with people felt hard for me.”

She continued, “I wish I didn’t act that way towards her. I’m a human and I made a mistake and I acted a way that was out of character for me. I acted a way that I don’t want to be. I’m trying to do better every single day. I want to continue to grow as a person. I’m open to people correcting me.” However, the 24-year-old argued that she doesn’t believe it needs to be people “on social media” to do the correcting.

She landed in hot water on Twitter

Just a few days after she called Twitter a “breeding ground for cruelty towards each other,” Hailey Bieber got slammed again by Twitter users who had discovered and shared some of the model’s old Twitter and Tumblr posts as supposed evidence of her racism and bigotry. This all came as a response to Bieber’s online defence of her husband who, at the time, had recently shared that he had been diagnosed with Lyme disease after a long struggle with undiagnosed symptoms.

When people came for Justin Bieber, saying that Lyme wasn’t a “real illness” and that “he wouldn’t have gotten Lyme disease if he stanned Selena,” Hailey was not having it. “For those who are trying to downplay the severity of Lyme disease […] Please do your research and listen to the stories of people who have suffered with it for years. Making fun of and belittling a disease you don’t understand is never the way, all it takes is educating yourself,” she wrote on Twitter.

While she was completely correct, and well within her right, to say that you should not make fun of people with chronic illnesses, what actually caught everyone’s attention was how many of her self-proclaimed haters (or Selena Gomez fans, same thing) answered back to her tweet.

In an attempt to dig up some old dirt about her—and succeeding at doing so—many replied with screenshots of tweets and Tumblr posts dating back years, where the model was using the n-word casually, saying she’s “Asian” with squinty eyes, and claiming she came back from Florida “a different race.”

Why does the internet hate Hailey Bieber? A timeline of the most famous love triangle

Shortly after, most tweets mentioning her past were deleted, and the model decided to close her Twitter account altogether. Meanwhile, you have Justin Bieber thinking it’s completely fine to sample Martin Luther King Jr. on his latest album Justice as a means to say how great his wife is… Should we speak about this old-yet-still-horrifying little gem?

Most people still ship Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber

The infamous Jelena ship—as fans dubbed Bieber and Gomez together—is probably the biggest reason Hailey Bieber is the recipient of so much online hate still to this day. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the whole Gomez, Bieber, Baldwin love triangle, let me give you a quick crash course. In a Billboard timeline on Bieber’s love life, the publication explains how “before the roller coaster romance between Bieber and Selena Gomez took off, the two met for pancakes at an IHOP in Philadelphia in December 2010.”

The couple officially went public at the Vanity Fair Oscars Party in February 2011. Then, in November 2012, both called it quits for the first time. Fast-forward to April 2013, when an insider told People Gomez travelled to Oslo, Norway, to be with Bieber during his performance. “They were holding hands, hugging and they kissed on the lips,” said the source. “They looked really in love, like no fights ever happened before. It definitely looked like they were back together.” This mystery intel is probably the best way to describe those two’s relationship: most of the time, no one knew whether they were together, broken up, or right in the middle, toying with each other’s feelings. It was a mess, and so was their relationship from what we now know.

After Bieber’s alleged August 2014 fight with Orlando Bloom, which went down after the actor was spotted with Gomez outside of a Chelsea Handler show, the pop star confirmed the duo were back on again during his September 2014 legal deposition for assaulting a paparazzi. Oh but again, the reunion didn’t last long, with Gomez sending out a cryptic, since-deleted tweet the following month, “We have to learn the hard way sometimes.” See what I mean? Messy.

But let’s press pause on this relationship for a second and look at Hailey’s (then Baldwin) first appearance in Bieber’s life. According to Billboard, Bieber and Baldwin met in 2009 in a fan meet-and-greet that was caught on video. When rumours started circling about them dating, Bieber laid them to rest with an Instagram post from December 2015 of the two saying, “People are crazy. I’m super single and this is my good friend you would know otherwise.”

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A year later, the then couple rang in a second New Year’s together—but this time with a sultry make-out session. They served fans sexy Instagram posts, and in a GQ cover story, Bieber asked, “What if Hailey ends up being the girl I’m gonna marry, right?” The teaser of a potential engagement didn’t go unnoticed back then, and neither did Baldwin’s since-deleted Instagram post that was a note about honesty and blame—something Jelena fans mistook as her weighing on Bieber’s drama with Gomez. The pop star then reportedly unfollowed Baldwin on the app before deleting his account altogether.

Then, back in November 2017 and up until March 2018, Bieber reunited again with his on-and-off girlfriend Gomez. Jelena had taken a long stroll down memory lane on social media, over the years they weren’t together, by posting pictures of the two or cryptic tweets. But after being spotted on a bike ride together in Los Angeles in November 2017, they reignited their relationship and sent Twitter into an uproar.

Even the two stars’ mums had something to say about it. Bieber’s mother Pattie Malette said she loved Gomez. “I support anything [he does], if he loves her I love her,” she told People in December 2017. Meanwhile, Mandy Teefy, Gomez’s mother, was “not happy” about her daughter’s reunion with her famous ex, she admitted to Gossip Cop. At the time, Gomez and her mum even went as far as unfollowing each other on Instagram over this relationship reunion. It was then alleged that Bieber and Gomez’s second official split was caused by her family, who weren’t all too keen on the idea of them being back together.

Although he had been spotted with Gomez in March 2018, the ‘Sorry’ singer started dating Hailey Baldwin again in June 2018—less than three months later—and then marrying the model in September of the same year. After getting married in a New York City courthouse in September 2018, the pair married (again) in a religious ceremony in South Carolina in September 2019. Meanwhile, after taking some time off from making music, Gomez returned with the song ‘Lose You to Love Me’, which seemed to allude to the couple’s past relationship. In a released statement, the singer said, “This song was inspired by many things that have happened in my life since releasing my last album. I thought it was important to share the music, as I know many can relate to the fact that the road to self-discovery generally comes through the scars in one’s life.”

Gomez seemed to make a direct reference to Bieber when she sings, “Set fire to my purpose and I let it burn.” Could she be referencing her ex’s 2015 album Purpose? The song also seemed to criticise the fact that Bieber moved on fairly quickly with his now-wife. “In two months you replaced us like it was easy,” she sang.

She followed up ‘Lose You to Love Me’ with ‘Look At Her Now’ which, though more of a breakup anthem than a subtle dig, was also assumed to be about Bieber. Gomez seemed to address their relationship, which started when they were both still teenagers, when she sang, “It was her first real lover, his too ‘til he had another, oh god when she found out, trust levels went way down.”

If you’ve never been in a toxic relationship yourself, you’re probably not seeing the clear signs pointing to the fact that Gomez and Bieber’s relationship was everything but healthy—Gomez even confirmed it herself. In an interview with NPR, the pop star opened up about moving on from her relationship with Bieber. She said, “I’ve found the strength in it. It’s dangerous to stay in a victim mentality. And I’m not being disrespectful, I do feel I was a victim to certain abuse.”

The interviewer asked Gomez if she meant emotional abuse, to which the singer answered yes. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s not hard to see why Jelena shippers aren’t Hailey Baldwin’s biggest fans—most people feel comfortable going with the classic ‘she snakily stole her boyfriend by pretending to be nice’ trope.

In reality, while neither of them has publicly called each other friends, Gomez did shut down rumours about there being any issues between her and Baldwin back in 2020. At the beginning of that year, rumours started circulating after Baldwin was seen at Gomez’s release party for her album Rare held at Craig’s in Los Angeles. What really happened was that Baldwin was there at the same time, having dinner with friends, including Madison Beer.

A false rumour circulated on Twitter that Beer and Baldwin provoked Gomez. Beer supposedly didn’t say hi to Gomez, and Baldwin was talking about Bieber and screaming her husband’s name with her group when the staff started playing Gomez’s music. “This didn’t happen, but some fans became convinced it may have when Gomez unfollowed Beer on Instagram,” wrote Elle.

What if we looked at the Biebs instead of his partners?

I’m not saying Hailey Bieber is an angel—I literally just listed some of her previous screw-ups—but when looking at her husband’s dating life, it’s funny (read sad) how quick people are to point the finger at his partners instead of trying to decipher some unhealthy patterns in how he might behave with them. Shocker, the man might be the problem.

Bieber has said in the past that becoming famous at an early age led him to use “pretty heavy drugs” that contributed to his struggles with mental illness. He has also said he “abused all of [his] relationships” and was “disrespectful to women” before getting married. And fair enough, I’m not here to downplay the impact fame can have on someone at such a young age. But it’s also important to note that toxic habits don’t just disappear after you’ve found ‘the one’—or after ‘finding god’.

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And although most of the online community seems to hate Hailey Bieber, a smaller part of the internet believes that her husband is the more problematic one of the two. A simple search on Reddit, TikTok, or even YouTube will send you into a rabbit hole of videos and posts analysing the pop star’s every move, both with Baldwin and Gomez—as well as with previous girlfriends—in an attempt to reveal how abusive he can be in his relationships.

Yes, marriage can be hard, but conjugal troubles can’t justify some of the problematic behaviour we’ve seen Bieber showcase with the model. Yelling at your wife because she won against you at a silly basketball arcade game is not normal. Pushing her in front of the cameras, even if playful, is definitely not okay. Closing the door on her face while coming out of a car, as if you’ve completely forgotten she’s there with you is just plain weird. Doing it in front of paparazzis so the rest of the world can witness her embarrassment makes it even worse. Speaking of paparazzis—and I’ll stop my list after this one—does anyone remember that time when the Biebs escaped from a crowd of photographers on his skateboard while Baldwin ran behind him, in heels, and fell on the floor as he managed to safely get into his car? A true gentleman.

In a Reddit post titled ‘Honestly want to know why everyone hates the Biebers?’, some users can be seen blaming both celebrities. “Their marriage has this false narrative that she ‘saved him’ or whatever which is super unhealthy and waves a red flag, but also feels like a narrative meant to sort of tear down any of his exes with a side of ‘you weren’t good enough to fix him’ angle,” writes the user Hi_Jynx. Another user answers, “Biebs has major issues with women and being needy. If we look back at his dating history, this boy has never been single for long. When he was on/off with Selena, he quickly rebounded with other girls, then Selena, Hailey, and others. I also don’t buy this ‘he’s been saved’ act. I give them a few more years before Hailey is pretty much successful in her own right before she finally gets tired of him. I don’t think there’s any real love between them. It’s a dependency type of relationship.”

All in all, it’s safe to say that no one’s relationship is perfect, let alone one between two celebrities who never get to keep certain aspects of it private. So next time you’re about to comment nasty things about Hailey Bieber online, try to keep in mind that society normalised victim-blaming a long time ago, especially when the victim is a woman. Maybe it’s time we focus on what Bieber might be doing wrong instead of nitpicking at everything his wife does to try and please him?

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