Celebrities and Accountability | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

July 2, 2013

Celebrities and Accountability

I know, it's so cliche at this point to write some blurb about my thoughts regarding the whole Paula Deen and whether or not she's racist issue. I've read quiet a bit of news on the matter, and some great posts (including from Kristen and Lezlie) that have really made me think. I've heard from those who are condemning Paula for her racist remarks and overall perspective. I've heard from those who say the media is blowing this way out of proportion because haven't we all said things we regret?

So what is a blogger to do except throw her verbiage hat into the proverbial ring, adding to the din of conversation happening around Ms. Deen.


Except I'm not sure what my thoughts are.

I mean, let's make this clear: I think the N-word is wrong. I don't want to get into semantics as to whether it ends in "er" or "a" or the color of the skin of the person saying it. I don't like it. I don't like what it meant for the black people of our nation. I don't like what it meant about the white people of our nation. And while I cannot speak on the matter of black people using this word, I can certainly throw my 2-cents in on the matter of white people using it:

It's wrong. For so many reasons wrong. And entitled. And superior. And presumptuous and pretentious. And I don't care if it was only once. I don't care if it was a long time ago or the punchline of the joke was really damn funny.

There is nothing good or noble or uplifting or gracious about that word.

But this has been stated, or at the very least batted around, since Paula's Deen's deposition hit the news. The topic of race is a hot one, and I have a lot of thoughts on the matter. But when you talk about race, it's important to not just word vomit. I think with most things, it's important to think before you speak. But most of all, to examine yourself. 

As a social work major, we did a lot of examining. We held our lives out before us, turning it every which way, trying to look at it at every angle. We worked to uncover our prejudices, our biases and how the things we've encountered in our lives shaped the way we think and behave today. It was important to understand how our thoughts and actions affected not only ourselves, but others. Our clients. Our community. 

So I'm not ready to lay down a mighty verdict on Ms. Paula. I have been thinking a lot, though, on the matter of celebrities and accountability. A lot of the chatter is whether or not this has story has been trumped up simply because Paula Deen is famous.  And certainly there is a case for this. Does that mean deep down the issue has not merit? Certainly not. And while people argue over whether it's blown out of proportion or not, I want to ask the question:

Should celebrities be held to a higher standard of accountability than others?

Pause and think about that for a moment.

I love having discussions, but well-examined, well thought out discussions. Knee-jerk conversations get heated quickly and often get no where. I am not sure where I fall on this. Is it wrong for anyone to throw around the N-word? Yes.  But should Paula Deen been held more accountable for doing so because she is a notable celebrity?


When you take on the fame and fortune of being a celebrity, I believe there is a responsibility involved. You choose to allow your life to be in the spotlight. You know that your moves will be scrutinized. You will be on display. And whether you like it or not, people look to you. They look to how you act, how you react, how you behave. We discuss this all the time with young pop stars. Kids, for better or worse, aspire to be like their favorite celebrities. What starts as an innocent love of a song turns into mimicking how they dress, how they wear their hair, how they utilize media, how they speak. 

So what happens when this person one has learned to emulate goes off the deep end (think Miley or Brittany Spears)?  How does this disconnect translate into their own lives?  Or when the famous athlete you've admired goes public with his affairs? Or money scandals? Or, with Paula Deen, her racism?

It begins to unravel what you know about life, about perspective. Because suddenly this person you looked up to is no longer who you thought they were. What does that mean for how you see marriage? Or money? Or how you view those of a different race? 

Does it impact your world view? Your beliefs? Your perspective?


What does it do, subliminally, for people to see Paula Deen so easily dismiss the N word, or having a Civil War themed wedding complete with slaves, or a restaurant where black people had to use a separate entrance than white people {see page 15 }? What does it do when we see the torrid affairs? Openly homophobic remarks? Public drug use? Teenage pop stars tweeting naked or sexual pictures of themselves? 

It makes racism something we dismiss.

It makes affairs something commonplace.

It makes sexually provocative behavior something acceptable for young girls.

It makes bullying gay people okay.

It makes drug use something cool.


I believe that with great power comes great responsibility.

And that maybe no one should get a pass.

Celebrities gladly accept the fame and fortune that comes with being in the spotlight. But should they more heavily consider that with this notoriety comes a higher standard? That they are an example to the public?

What say you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Leave a comment, and let's have a civil, well-examined discussion on the topic. 

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