When your “unproblematic” favs let you down


Whether you like it or not, Rex Orange County’s music has been inescapable over the past few years. Maybe you’re a superfan, or maybe like the Trinitonian production team, you hear songs like “Loving is Easy” in the background while you work to popular Spotify playlists. Even if you don’t know his songs, you likely know some of his melodies. But don’t bother learning the lyrics now, because the English singer has just been charged with six counts of sexual assault.

This isn’t the first time a seemingly wholesome fixture of pop culture has let us down. In addition to the Rex Orange County news, the past few weeks have seen Ned Fulmer of the Try Guys leave the company over an affair he had with an employee and Netflix’s “Great British Bake Off” put out an offensive depiction of Mexicans for a Mexican-themed episode.

It’s never clear what to do in these situations. Do you keep watching the show? Can you separate the music from the musician? How do you retain the positive impact that person made on you before their mistakes came to light?

Part of the problem is our idolization of celebrities, an issue as old as fame itself that has led to many societal ills. But with the rise of social media allowing celebrities — both large and small — to get closer to fans, they seem more and more like our best friends. When our best friends ruin their lives publicly, it can be much harder to bear.

Yet if we stop connecting with our favorite musicians, YouTubers or comedians as people, we stop connecting with the heart of their work as informed by their personal experiences. We lose role models and the meaning these people bring to our lives.

Obviously, the real solution to this dilemma has nothing to do with fans. If famous men could stop cheating on their wives and preying on young women, that would be ideal. However, time after time, celebrities like Rex Orange County disappoint beyond measure.

For those who feel like they’ve been betrayed by the celebrities they trusted the most, adjusting to this kind of news can mirror a grieving process. If it’s for personal comfort, it’s OK to still listen to that person’s music or watch their videos, and it’s also OK to turn it off forever. Feel your anger or sadness, even if it seems like you shouldn’t be so upset over someone you never met. Turn your energy into something productive, like making a donation to a local organization for survivors of sexual assault, in spite of whichever celebrity is the latest culprit.

Most importantly, we must all pay attention to the roles celebrities play in our lives. We can learn from them, form relationships because of them and find joy thanks to them without having to endorse their every move. Good ole Rex might have sang, “you’re gonna wanna be my best friend, baby,” but that might not be the smartest idea.