Ever since The New York’s Times’ Framing Britney Spears documentary premiered, the media coverage surrounding female celebrities during the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s has come under scrutiny. The documentary has forced many people to re-examine how female celebrities were exploited and treated by the tabloid media for entertainment.
Numerous female celebrities have had their privacy invaded, placed in uncomfortable situations, and harshly judged by the entire world who wanted to see them fail. It’s time for the media to make amends for how they treated female celebrities. Sending the following ten women an apology would be a perfect place to start.
When Taylor Swift released her debut album Taylor Swift, she was sixteen years old. She was thrown into immediate stardom while still being in high school. She, just like any other teenage girl, wanted to talk about her love life and she did, through her music. Yet over the course of her career, Taylor would be ridiculed for writing about her love life and her “long list” of exes.
Taylor Swift was consistently slut shamed for having dated celebrities like Harry Styles, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, among others. She was criticized for writing about them in her songs, while her peers like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars who wrote about their love lives were. There was an obvious double standard in how Taylor Swift was treated by the media compared to her male counterparts.
Megan Fox rose to prominence when she starred in Micheal Bay’s Transformers in 2007. She quickly became known as a new sex symbol for Hollywood. Often, her acting came secondary to her appearance. Her fanbase was mostly made up of teenage boys who wanted to use her as material for their right hands rather than watch her in serious movie roles like Jennifer’s Body.
When Megan complained about her Transformers director Micheal Bay, saying he was a “nightmare to work with”, she was attacked by the media. Three crew members from the Transformers set trashed Megan, calling her acting “cringeable” and saying becoming a “porn star” would be a good career option for her. She was fired from Transformers and nearly blacklisted from Hollywood. Apparently, voicing displeasures about a toxic workplace was grounds for losing your career.
Janet Jackson was one of the biggest stars in the world when she was set to perform at the 2004 Super Bowl. What should have been one of the greatest achievements in her career turned out to be the worst. During the performance, Justin Timberlake, who was making a surprise appearance caused a wardrobe malfunction when he ripped a portion of Jackson’s outfit off, putting her right breast on display for the world to see.
Justin Timberlake escaped the situation relatively unscathed, Janet however wasn’t so lucky. CBS forced Janet to release a written apology and a video apology for the incident. She was subsequently uninvited from the Grammy’s and her music was banned from CBS and MTV. Despite Justin Timberlake being the one who caused the wardrobe malfunction, his career went on to thrive. Not the same case for Janet. She received fewer career opportunities because of the incident and was ultimately blacklisted. There’s that double standard again rearing its ugly head.
Lindsay Lohan was a child star who literally grew up right in front of the public eye. After seeing success in such films like Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, Lindsay became a superstar. She found herself out clubbing and dabbling into drugs and alcohol. Lindsay would become an alcoholic and addict. After several DUIs and arrests, Lindsay became an easy target for media attacks.
Lindsay became the butt of many jokes by many people including late night comedians like David Letterman. During one visit to his show in 2013, Letterman asked Lindsay invasive questions about her substance abuse and arrests. These questions were aimed to humiliate Lindsay and make light of her addiction issues. Because struggling with alcohol and drug addiction is so hilarious. Seriously though, if that was the best material Letterman could joke about, then he was not very good at his job.
Paris Hilton was the biggest socialite you could find in the early 2000s. Being in such high demand, it was no surprise that when a sex tape featruing Paris was revealed to be real, every tabloid wanted their hands on it. It didn’t matter that Paris did not consent to the tape being released to the public, tabloids were willing to pay top dollar for it.
When the sex tape was leaked, Paris was mocked for making it even though she never consented to it being shared with the public. That didn’t stop the slut-shaming hurled towards Paris or the jokes made at her expense. What should have been considered revenge porn was labeled as a sex tape to profit off a young humiliated socialite.
Perhaps, the most notable media attacks on this list was launched at Monica Lewinsky. The 22 year-old intern who was involved in an affair with the President of the United States. President Clinton was obviously ridiculed for the affair, but the media were arguably harsher on Monica. Monica Lewinsky was slut-shamed by seemingly everyone including the tabloids and political commentators.
She was vilified though she was just barely an adult and President Clinton was the one who had a responsibility to his country and his wife. Monica suffered public humiliation and bullying by not only the media, but even the FBI. She was degraded and embarrassed. Monica was a punchline for an easy joke for decades up until recently when people finally came around to the idea of blaming the most powerful man in the world for the affair instead of the 22 year-old intern.
Whitney Houston was one of the biggest pop stars in her day and remains one of the greatest vocalists ever. But even her talent could not stop the criticism she was often met with by the media. Whether it was her being repeatedly chastised for losing weight or her being mocked for her drug abuse. Whitney would not receive a break from the negative press until her passing in 2012.
The infamous Diane Sawyer interview displayed how little regard the media had for Whitney’s health. Sawyer asked questions about Whitney’s drug use, what she used, when she used it, but offered no solutions to keep her clean. Whitney was paraded around by the media sometimes for her voice and other times for her erratic behavior without ever receiving the help she really needed. Which is what makes her death all the more heartbreaking.
The media failed Britney Spears in various ways during the course of her career, but the most egregious has to be how her 2007 breakdown was treated by the media. In 2007, Britney was going through divorce proceedings and a custody battle over her children. That alone would be hard on anyone’s mental health, but that did not stop the tabloids and paparazzi from pursuing Britney.
The paparazzi would follow and torment Britney everywhere capturing images of her no matter what state she was in. She was tormented and her mental health suffered until she proceeded to have her very public breakdown. The narrative around Britney was not one of sympathy, instead of one where she was the joke the whole world was laughing at.
Meghan Markle is the most recent example of how the media can pick apart a female celebrity for whatever reason that irritates them. In Meghan Markle’s case, it is the fact that she is a Black woman who married into the British royal family is that sent numerous attacks her way. They did not want to see a biracial, Black American join their pure and innocent royals. And thus Meghan became a target for the media to bash.
The British tabloids have criticized her every move, including attacking her for cradling her pregnant stomach in 2018. Meghan was called a “narcissist” and a “diva” for daring to place her hands on top of her baby bump despite that many mothers having done the same thing. It was attacks like these aimed at Meghan that resulted in her and Prince Harry stepping down from royal family duties.
Each of these women’s stories is tragic in their own ways, but none more so than Amy Winehouse’s. When talking about women who the media tormented, there may not be a better example than Amy Winehouse. Amy Winehouse, like many celebrities, suffered from addiction, drug abuse, an eating disorder, and depression. The British press, on the other hand, frequently exploited Amy’s problems. Her hardships were considered a source of entertainment.
People got a kick out of reading exposes about her addiction, while never asking about her mental health. In what would be her most vulnerable and final years, Amy was harassed by paparazzi and bullied online by the media because of her addiction and appearance. Her mental health was never taken into consideration when writing about her. It’s hard to deny that the media didn’t play a factor in Amy’s untimely death in 2011.
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