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Julianna Pijar / Gavel Media

Mitski Controversy Highlights the Problem of Celebrity Idolization

On Feb. 24, 2022, alternative and indie singer-songwriter, Mitski, posted a note on Twitter regarding phone usage at her concerts. In the tweet, she simply asked fans to refrain from “filming entire songs or whole sets.” She never outright said she wanted phones banned at her concerts nor did she prohibit photos or short videos. She only asked fans to keep from using flash, and she even said “ultimately it’s your night, and I want you to enjoy it as you like,” leaving the final decision on phone usage up to the concertgoers.

However, people misconstrued this tweet, taking it as a personal attack. The comments of the tweet included people citing a need to record the show because of personal mental health issues as a way to place guilt on Mitski for not being inclusive. In reality, Mitski’s request was obviously generalized for the masses, and when it comes to specific cases of fans with mental health issues, she was in no way exempting people with a disorder, like dissociative disorder, from rightfully recording her show so they could enjoy it more. She even encouraged fans at the end of the tweet to “enjoy [the show] as [they] like.” The backlash did not stop there, though, and many more comments were riddled with people condescendingly calling Mitski “bestie,” and people claiming that because fans spent money on the tickets, they could do whatever they want. Due to this backlash, Mitski and her team took down the tweet shortly after it was posted.

This Twitter controversy was placed as the backdrop of Mitski’s first leg of her North American tour and the release of her new album, Laurel Hell: an album which Mitski’s Spotify bio states was written to strip “away the masks,” “facades,” and “deadly traps” created by “the intoxicating prism of the internet.” In addition to this album description,  Mitski has previously discussed the pitfalls associated with social media, even going as far to remove herself from these sites for indefinite periods. It is therefore even more jarring to see these so-called “fans” react so baselessly to Mitski’s simple request when her music is meant to stand as a beacon away from social media and the internet.

The reactions to, and the eventual deletion of the tweet, only highlight the growing problem of celebrity idolization and fetishization: an issue that has been tackled countless times in pop culture. However, even with countless representations of the problem of celebrity idolization, the issue does not seem to be getting any better. The people at Mitski’s concerts ignore her phone-policy requests while simultaneously screaming “mommy” at her, a paradox that only selfishly benefits the people doing the action and completely disregards the artist’s feelings.  

In the 21st century, people often forget that musicians are real people and not machines. Real people who have their own wants and needs and, at the end of the day, do not owe you anything. It is the least a fan could do to respect the requests of the artist who is willingly putting on a show and producing music in the first place. To add emphasis to this point, it is not as if Mitski was banning phones at her shows. She wasn’t even suggesting entirely banning photography or videography. Rather, she simply asked  that people be more present at her concerts in the hopes of creating “the feeling of connection, of sharing a dream” with the audience. She hopes that people can appreciate “a brief miraculous moment of being alive at the same time.” When people are engrossed in their phones for entire songs or entire sets, she said in her tweet, “it makes me feel as though those of us on stage are being taken from and consumed as content, instead of getting to share a moment with you.” No one wants to feel as if they are a product, so why, then, do we allow it for celebrities?