With great Twitter followers comes great social responsibility. Take, for example, Kylie Jenner’s rumored pregnancy, which provoked nearly the same ferocity from the general public as Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest of racial injustice. These distinctive notifications of our time uphold massive exposure to the majority of people who receive their information based on the attention of widespread media coverage. Famous and intensively popularized people’s lives, beliefs, and actions become embellished by the news and therefore our day-to-day conversations.
It could be said, though, that the difference between these two aforementioned icons is that one is tottering a multibillionaire superficiality while the other is advocating for the humanity of black people. Many of us have heard about these recent events on our Twitter feeds and perhaps shared our thoughts on the matter with our friends. One holds the extension of the entire community while the other only confronts the coverage of an exclusive family’s empire. The reach of these people influences our common conversations, and potentially how we see our daily lives and our stances on these issues.
The actions associated with a famous person’s image grants an authority in the eyes of the general public. This proves especially true within communities that are notoriously degraded or diminished from the public eye. To the outside world, this icon becomes a representation for the entire community. To the inside world, that person is an image of how we advance beyond survival. We often take their morals as a pinnacle for everyone else.
LGBTQ+ representation in the media has historically been scarce or demeaning, so in 2015, when queer punk duo PWR BTTM began singing about queer love and intimacy, learning people’s correct pronouns, and being “more than just a boy in a dress,” it alleviated some of isolation in understanding that a queer identity is valid. Their live performances seemed to connect everyone in the room as the glitter flourished between them to the tune of their favorite songs.
Recently, PWR BTTM was accused of sexual assault. They were immediately dropped from their record label, tour dates, and fans’ Spotify playlists. Some die-hard PWR BTTM fans even realized the musicians’ approach to sexual encounters may have been inappropriate, and perhaps had the chance to reflect on their own sexual encounters. Some had already had the example set. Some of the sole representation of queerness in the media was snatched from idolization and shrunk back into the muted conversation.
Luckily more queer bands have been reproached in a hopeful response to PWR BTTM being denounced. The unacceptable nature of taking advantage of other people has no place in our representation, and it is apparent within the community that one band was not the threshold for how we handle ourselves. It is unfortunate that the blip of spotlight in the queer community was tarnished by a tainted token of it, but we learn and get better.
Bands like Palehound progressively revamp the way queer communities are viewed. They recently curated a Spotify playlist in the spirit of Pride month. After denouncing mainstream media solely representing heterosexual intimacy, lead frontman Ellen Hopkins collected songs to love unusually with. During the Fight Supremacy rally in Boston this past summer, Palehound offered guest-list spots to their show for anyone who had attended the counter-protest, celebrating the warmness of where hatred can’t live.
These kinds of spaces, fan-based interactions, shows, and advocacy of marginalized communities demonstrates a profound resilience. No matter how mainstream media depicts queerness, those who identify as such know the world works a bit differently for us. As such, the general public needs to recognize how much influence exists in the media we digest. When we watch the nightly news or scroll through our Twitter feed, we know things are happening somewhere out there, but refuse to acknowledge how they hit right here. People with a large following, both in real life and online, hold a greater influence over the general population. Their beliefs and actions have a wider platform for people to hear and resonate with.
Art by: Francisco Guglielmino