Here's The Problem With A Celebrity Boycott

There’s no doubt that celebrity culture is tiring — especially when the world’s turmoils seem to grow graver by the day.

So it’s understandable that when New York’s Met Gala fell on the same day that Israel began its offensive in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, social media users pointed out the dystopian contrast.

Pro-Palestinian activists began noting that many of the celebrities present for fashion’s biggest night hadn’t spoken out about the more than 30,000 lives lost in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Their voices got louder after influencer Haley Kalil posted a since-deleted TikTok of her lip-syncing to the words “let them eat cake” in a Marie Antoinette-inspired gown.

TikTok user @ladyfromtheoutside responded to the video by calling for a “digital guillotine,” a campaign urging social media users to block celebrities who’ve been silent about the ongoing conflict, including Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Drake, Justin Bieber and countless others. The hope is that this could cause a big enough impact to affect them financially.

This isn’t the first boycott that Generation Z activists have initiated in the push for a cease-fire and divestment from Israel. They’ve also led the charge in calling out corporations and universities that they believe are complicit. With celebrities, it may be a bit more complicated, however.

On this week’s “I Know That’s Right,” writer Shenequa Golding said that fans may end up disappointed by expecting celebrities to discuss nuanced societal issues when they “don’t have the range.”

Listen to the episode here.

“Not every celebrity has the range to discuss certain things, and a talent here does not bleed into literacy here,” said Golding, the author of “A Black Girl in the Middle.”

“For me, demanding that someone speak, you might be setting yourself up,” she said, while noting that it’s welcome when a celebrity voluntarily speaks out about sociopolitical issues.

In addition, the success of a boycott depends on how dedicated a community is to the campaign. And as easy as it is to tap in and out of conversations online, that could pose a challenge in this particular case. At this point in the game, the famous folks who decide to speak out because they’re losing followers end up coming off as disingenuous.

Gen Z’s heart is in the right place when it comes to the effort to end this conflict. But a viral push to block hundreds of celebrities (who are very human and can be very disappointing) feels like it might be putting a lot of energy in the wrong direction.