As you have probably seen by now, Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet are dating—or, in case they haven’t defined their relationship yet, at the very least, they were photographed kissing at Beyoncé’s birthday concert in Los Angeles, and later on, at the US Open. For some reason, the pairing shocked a big part of the internet. What was most shocking to me, however, were the reactions online over this pairing. And some of those scream misogyny.
Some netizens have argued that it’s a PR stunt orchestrated by none other than momager Kris Jenner. Others spread a conspiracy theory which claims that ‘poor’ Chalamet is getting blackmailed—because how is it possible for someone like him to like someone like her?
Yes, you read that correctly. Many Chalamet fans on the internet have been contributing to a theory that Jenner must have some dirt on the popular actor because, in their worldview, there is no possible explanation as to why he would be into her. So, of course, he’s being forced into the relationship. One of the accounts contributing to this wild theory is @clubchalamet, which is run by a film buff who is allegedly 57 years old, and who made multiple posts demonising and vilifying Jenner.
“Slurpee’s stalking paid off. Tonight at Beyoncé’s concert in LA, what appears to be Timothée, he’s standing there in clear view, smoking a cigarette and talking to his stalker. It looks like they’re meeting for the first time since she’s been stalking his place. What else is he supposed to do, spit in her face? He was probably there with friends and mama kajenner [Kylie Jenner] waved [at] her staff and commanded this meeting be filmed. That’s my assessment,” reads one of the account’s posts.
“After months and months of gossip media bombardment, gossip speculations, ‘sources’ from the kajenner camp, her people stalking Timmy’s private residence, and his obvious avoidance of her, has finally paid off and had her primary objective met. That woman has now been redeemed in the eyes of her fans, investors, and the media. She’s a brand that needs to be rehabilitated. Whatever type of blackmail or threats she has on Timmy, she stayed the course because her reputation needed to be cleansed by someone like Timothée Chalamet,” reads another post on the account’s feed.
You don’t have to be a Kylie Jenner fan to acknowledge that this behaviour is bizarre. Dubbing her a ‘Slurpee’ has connotations of slut shaming—aka, trying to identify the 26-year-old as someone that is sleazy and someone who has been ‘sipped on’ a lot. It’s misogyny at its worst, and it is bred by fan culture. But what appears even more sinister to some, is that this misogyny or slut shaming is not bred by men. In fact, it is predominantly created by other women.
One of the most disappointing arguments I’ve seen circulating on TikTok is the fact that people can’t seem to believe that someone as mysterious, talented and artistic as Chalamet, would go for someone like Jenner. After all, Chalamet is the OG manic pixie dream boy, a term coined by TikToker @itsmeljayne. He is perceived as someone who is intellectual, tortured, and seriously aloof.
A large reason why these kinds of conversations and debates occur is because regular people on the internet like us form parasocial relationships with celebrities. A parasocial relationship is described as a one-sided relationship in which one person puts time, interest, and energy into an individual who is completely unaware of the other person’s existence.
Dr. Rachel Kowert, psychologist, consultant and author, explained to SCREENSHOT: “The term parasocial relationship was coined back in the 1950s to explain why people felt such an attachment to their favourite weatherman on the local news. Despite the fact that people do not know their local weatherman personally, people reported that they felt like they knew them because they watched them every morning. We see these same dynamics emerge when we think about or talk about our favourite celebrities.”
When asked why fans might become toxically obsessed with who Chalamet is dating, Dr. Kowert explains that while “most of us do not have a personal relationship with Chalamet or Jenner, for those who would consider themselves fans, many likely feel like they know them. Whether it is from watching [Chalamet] in his interviews, or [Jenner] on her long-running reality show with her family, we have developed this sense that we have a personal relationship with these individuals, that we know who they are, what their needs are, or (apparently) who would make a good romantic partner for them.”
As much as I would like to say that the hatred targeted at Jenner is a one-off or unique event on the internet, the reality is, that it’s not. This is a tale as old as time: a male celebrity with a huge female fan base gets a famous girlfriend, and many members of this fanbase become unhappy about it.
Take a look at Harry Styles as an example. Styles, perhaps one of the biggest crushes among millennial and gen Z girls, is a ‘manic pixie dream boy’ too—and most, if not all, of his female partners from the One Direction era have been subjected to some form of online hatred, bullying and misogyny.
Remember when the news broke out that he was in a relationship with Olivia Wilde, who he met on the set of Don’t Worry Darling? The internet went crazy. Some people criticised the 10-year age gap between the two, and while that is a valid conversation to be had, it is no secret that women do face a lot more public scrutiny for dating younger men, while up until not too long ago, men dating younger women was not only considered the norm but was viewed as something aspirational.
Then there were videos of people rejoicing over ‘bad’ photographs of Wilde on TikTok (in which, to be honest, she just looked human). Then, there were photos released of Styles kissing model Emily Ratjakowski following her divorce, who later spoke about the online misogyny she endured surrounding that situation.
Sometimes, fans tend to attack their celebrity crush’s new girlfriends, after their idol’s former relationship they approved of, or ‘shipped’ came to an end. Take the whole Justin Bieber-Selena Gomez-Hailey Bieber fiasco as an example. If you spent any time on the internet, you must have seen the so-called and alleged ‘feud’ between the two women.
In reality, the two are the perfect example of two women in the spotlight who are being pitted against each other because of a man. And no matter how many times each woman spoke out against the bullying, it never stopped some members of their fandoms.
“We have to remember that we do not actually know these public figures. We have no idea what they like, dislike, and what their day-to-day lives, wants, wishes, and dreams are or what kind of romantic partner they are seeking in their life. At the end of the day, public figures of all kinds—actors, reality TV stars, our local weatherman—are just human beings, trying to do the best with what they have. And if that means that [Chalamet] and [Jenner] like each other, we need to all let them live their best lives in whatever way that looks like for them (not our perception of them),” explains Dr. Kowert.
Celebrity and fan culture can come with a lot of positives; for some, it forms friendships, communities, a sense of belonging, and an opportunity to engage in something of meaning. But there needs to be a fine balance between appreciating and loving those you stan, and contributing to a culture of bullying, harassment, and misogyny towards other women.