Why is there no empathy for celebrities?


Before I start this, I want to come right out and say that I’m a little biased. I love Kim Kardashian and her family and have kept up with the Kardashians shamelessly for years. But at the same time, I don’t think not being a fan of Kim excuses the kind of behavior I’ve seen since news of her attack surfaced last night.

To recap, while in Paris for Fashion Week, Kim was reportedly robbed at gun point in her hotel room by two men disguised as police. Her spokesperson told the press that Kim was “badly shaken but physically unharmed.” There are rumors that the robbery involved Kim tied up and gagged in the bathroom while the robbers took off with $10 million worth of jewelry.

Regardless of the details of how many attackers there were and how much they took, what’s clear is that Kim experienced something horrible. What isn’t clear is why some people have reacted to this news with absolutely no empathy whatsoever.

I went to bed after hearing the news, and I woke up to read this tweet from actor and television host James Corden.

My first reaction was disbelief. Who’s making jokes? A woman (a sister, a daughter, a wife, a mother) was robbed a gunpoint in a foreign country and people are making jokes? Hoping for maybe a stupid meme or two, I opened up Corden’s tweets and read some of the replies.

“I hear she was forced to put her clothes back on,” read one response. “OVER EXPOSED & her husband violated a federal law when he harassed 2 disabled ppl 4 not standing up!” read another. “Go f*ck ya self bub. a useless, vapid vomit who’s wealthy from having sex on film AND DOING nothing 4 society. There I said it.” They got worse the more I scrolled.

Here’s where my bias comes in. I hate hearing Kim, who’s managed to build an empire for herself and her family out of something unfortunate, referred to “a useless vapid vomit” who’s “over exposed.” I hope to god Kim laughs all the way to the bank when people insult her like this, but there’s a bigger issue than just cruel words here. Why do people think a celebrity doesn’t deserve empathy after going through a truly horrific experience just because they’re famous and have money?

Chrissy Teigen seemed to have had a similar thought last night. “Fame is interesting,” she tweeted. “Celebs are supposed to love you guys while also knowing you’d make a meme of our dead bodies to get retweets.”

We ask so much of celebrities. We stop them when they’re buying coffee to shove our phones in their faces to take a selfie so we can post online that we “met” them. We never let them take a day off (god forbid they cancel a tour date). The pressure on them to stay in shape, ageless, politically correct, perfect… is never ending. Why do we expect celebrities to love us when we treat them like dirt?

https://twitter.com/ellinbjork/status/782808187498102784

The tweet above proves that there’s such a disgusting level of expectation we have with our celebrities. We, in theory, “create” them, by buying their movies or tickets to their concerts, and thus we have the power in the relationship. We can treat them like shit because the only reason they’re rich and famous is because of us. They can’t stop pretending to love us because then they’d be ungrateful for what we’ve done for them. And in Kim’s case, when as a country we’re not collectively proud of where we allowed her fame to stem from (read: a sex tape), we don’t even treat her like a human being when she endures something like being robbed at gunpoint.

That empathy is gone when it comes to celebrities. Judging from people’s reactions, they believe that Kim deserved what happened to her because of how much money she has and where it came from. Has celebrity culture always been like this? Has it been fueled to new heights by the internet and social media, or have people always enjoyed tearing celebrities down (the long histories of tabloid magazines may prove just that)?

Do we put these people on a pedestal by making them famous through our purchases in order to give us some figuratively indestructible person to rip apart to make ourselves feel better? Have we completely forgotten that celebrities are human beings just like we are, with families and dreams and most of all, feelings? Is all this hate driven by jealousy, that these celebrities have the riches and lives we don’t?

You know, really, I don’t think my bias as being a fan of Kim Kardashian’s has anything to do with the fact that I don’t believe she deserved to undergo something so horrible. I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that my heart broke when I heard Kanye West left the stage mid-performance when he heard what happened. If this same thing had happened to a celebrity I’m not such a big fan of (and there are some!), I still don’t think I would’ve reacted in the way those people did.

Because I know Kim is a human, too, and I have empathy. People would do well to remember the same.

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