You may be one of the lucky ones that still does not know who James Charles is, but know this post is not just about him. I am up lamenting on a lot of parallels between what is happening to him online and what happens to a lot of our politicians and government officials. But I’m also up lamenting the toenail polish I’m wearing because James Charles my have triggered the insomnia….BUT NOW IT HAS TAKEN ON A LIFE OF IT’S OWN.
I do not claim to be an expert on the James Charles drama but as someone who cares about teenagers who follow him, I had to do my best to become one this weekend amidst as this story became bigger and bigger. Feel free to educate yourself, but if you don’t care to and just want to know the basics so you can follow along, here is my summary: James Charles – a 19-year old beauty guru who is reported to be worth 12 million dollars – made some unfortunate business decisions that affected personal relationships and some unfortunate personal decisions that affected business relationships. Since he’s worth so much money, a lot of people felt betrayed in concrete fiscal ways and deeply personal ways. He also used his fame and power to cross that line between “flirting” and “unwanted sexual advances.”
But here is why I am up at 2am writing about it.
- A lot of people in this “influencer generation” seem to be incapable of resolving conflict without the feedback of their audience and it’s because their audience loves it in the same way people bottleneck at collisions and buy tabloid magazines boasting scandalous headlines. How do we raise our kids to not perpetuate or feed into that negative cycle? Especially when they see us do the same thing with our 24-hour news cycles lamenting political figures’ failures and chronicling pundit shouting matches while we act as an armchair experts in all of these public figure’s personal lives, giving ourselves the power to be judge and jury in all of the designated courtrooms of opinion. THEY LEARN FROM US.
- This guy is 19 years old and I thank every god I can, every day, that I did not have the opportunity to document my shitty behavior as a young adult for the whole world to see. I would have been drawn to the spotlight/validation the internet could have given me but I was no where near mature enough yet to have that spotlight on me. I can not imagine how I would have been crucified if my mistakes had been documented for the whole world to see. I worry about him both as a Mother to a young adult and as a former Young Adult who made big mistakes. I’m an empath…worrying about other people is what I do best. ESPECIALLY PEOPLE WHO STILL CAN BE CALLED TEENAGERS.
- People are celebrating his failure like he’s some sort of evil mastermind worthy of persecution instead of someone who reached toxic levels of fame before he was even old enough to vote and is still not old enough to drink. I mean, we all giggle about memes to our friends and family but when did we become a culture where everyone posts their joy over someone’s downfall across all of their social media platforms? When did we decide that was a good use of the public voice our social media gives us? And let’s not act like it’s just flamboyant makeup gurus who get this harsh treatment on social media, people use their platforms to mock and criticize politicians and government officials and actors and actresses as well. None of us practice the “just be kind” method of living when it comes to our public voices online. What would the internet look like if we all learned how to exist online without publicly mocking other humans beings? (I wrote about this a lot last week here. It’s obviously still something my brain is working through.)
- We have harnessed this culture of hero-worship where we only have two choices when analyzing the problematic behavior of our idols: 1) Banish people for every mistake no matter where it falls on the range of “shitty” to “criminal” or 2) Hold on so hard and fast to your worship of your hero that you blindly ignore or discount all of the mistakes on that same spectrum. We’ve all seen this with political figures and now it’s just happening with a former Cover Girl. You have to either completely abandon someone once they screw up, or choose not to believe their screw-ups. We have yet to create a good model for anyone from politicians to influencers where you can support and be a fan but also recognize they’re human and make mistakes.
- Why do we all have to have an opinion or take sides on every issue or conflict that becomes “mainstream.” This guy, he’s been on my radar for about a year now as my daughter learned to do her makeup watching his videos. I didn’t love him mainly because I definitely felt too old to “get” a lot of his schtick. I did feel he was sometimes problematic but I 100% did not have any real opinions of him in any way. There are hundreds of “famous” YouTubers I know nothing about the only difference between him and them is that he was on my radar because my daughter followed him. But now? Now it seems like everyone is claiming their place in this battlefield of his war. It seems like everyone has to either A) Brag about not knowing who he is or B) Take sides. And since I can’t do A) because I’ve publicly documented my daughter’s affection for the guy, I feel drawn to B) but I’m trying to resist the pull and remind myself that it’s okay to just simply sit on the sidelines and continue to focus on the things you were focusing on before the drama crossed your radar.
- I’m not going to publicly document the parenting challenges all of this has created because it’s not entirely my story to tell, but know this: THIS IS NOT SOMETHING TO LAUGH AT. It’s serious in many households, and not only because these kids face real confusions when their heroes stumble. (Don’t we all? Remember how long it took us to finally all agree Bill Cosby was an asshat?) But also because as a parent, it’s a tricky balance between causing resentment by forcing your opinions on your kid and giving them the freedom to come to their own conclusions in situations like this. We had to navigate the same waters with Logan Paul awhile ago. It is not easy. I should probably write more about it but if your kids are old enough to hero worship YouTubers, they’re old enough to have opinions on what you should and should not be sharing about their personal lives.
I just woke up at 1am still worrying about this stuff that I’ve been working about a lot of the weekend as the drama grew bigger and bigger. The more I thought about it all the more I kept finding lessons in it all for me and maybe for all of us regarding A) How we use our public voices for good and not evil, B) How we treat “celebrity” (and this counts on for political celebrity as well) drama and maybe how we can learn to let it flow past us without taking our attention, and C) How we model the proper way to be “fans” of people – POLITICIANS AND YOUTUBERS ALIKE – without holding them to unrealistic standards that make processing their mistakes or failures impossible.
I hoped if I sat down to brain dump all of it then maybe I could actually get some sleep.
Be kind to each other today. It’s never a bad decision to opt for kindness.