- Actress and activist Jameela Jamil came out as queer after social media backlash for being cast as a judge on an upcoming HBO Max LGBTQ+ dance show.
- Jamil said she was scared to come out because she was worried she would be accused of “performance bandwagon jumping.”
- Jamil has faced additional criticism because the show will focus on the ball scene, a type of dance that originated in African American and Latinx communities in New York. Jamil is of South Asian descent.
Jamil Cast in HBO Voguing Show
Following social media backlash for being cast on a show that will explore a popular LGBTQ+ dance subculture, actress Jameela Jamil announced that she is queer.
On Tuesday, Deadline, reported that Jamil was set to be both an MC and a judge on the new show, Legendary.
Legendary, which will launch on the upcoming streaming service HBO Max, will be a reality competition focused on “highlight[ing] modern-day ball culture.” Ball culture is a style of dance that originated among LGBTQ+ circles New York, many of which were also predominantly African American and Latinx.
The ball scene is also known for voguing, a highly stylized form of dance associated with drag queens and LGBTQ+ performers. Voguing was also popularized to mainstream audiences in 1990 when popstar Madonna released the aptly titled track, “Vogue.”
Jamil Faces Accusations of Cultural Appropriation
The news of Jamil’s involvement sparked criticism, with many calling the actress’ casting a form of cultural appropriation because she is of Pakistani and Indian descent. Jamil is also not associated with ball culture, and prior to her coming out, she was assumed to be straight.
“I think Jameela is great, one Twitter user said, “but this show raises eyebrows because this could very well lean into the appropriation of ball culture. I am trying to be open to it until we get more details, but the fact that this is on a major streaming platform is raising some red flags…”
wait so Mj Rodriguez, Billy Porter, Rupaul, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross (literally any drag queen/ lgbt icon) wasn’t available???? pic.twitter.com/r5A6hd7Yga— ms.versace if ya nasty (@DVerscace) February 4, 2020
Also following the announcement, trans actress and ball scene dancer Trace Lysette, who’s appeared in shows and movies like Transparent and Hustlers, criticized the casting while expressing her disappointment for not landing a role on the show.
“Lol.. I interviewed for this gig,” she said. “As the mother of a house for nearly a decade it’s kind of kind blowing when ppl with no connection to our culture gets the gig. This is not shade towards Jameela, I love all that she stands for. If anything I question the decision makers”
The terms “houses” and “house mothers” refer to small communities typically found within the LGBTQ+ communities. Houses are formed of an “alternative family” that provides sanctuary and shelter to LGBTQ+ individuals, especially youth who have been kicked out of their original homes. The roles of house mothers and fathers are usually taken up by older members of the ball scene who help guide and support their “children.”
Following Lysette’s tweet, Jamil responded by trying to clarify the situation. Notably, she also said that, unlike Deadline’s report, she would not be the MC of the show, only one of several judges. Instead, openly gay voguer Dashaun Wesley head the MC role.
Hey trace. I think you auditioned to be one of the house mothers. I’m just one of the judges. Not a house mother. We weren’t up for the same thing. @deadline are wrong. I’m NOT the MC. The brilliant @DashaunWesley is. I think you’re fucking amazing, in every way. And send you ❤️— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) February 5, 2020
Lysette soon responded back to Jamil, saying she had not applied for a house mother position but a host/producer one instead.
I don’t have audition to be a house mother… I am one. I remember the convo well. It was a convo in regards to be a host/producer. At least that’s what my manager at the time worked out. I never heard back. I send you love too. But I will always speak my truth.— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) February 5, 2020
In a separate post, Jamil then worked to prop up the show’s other judges, which include: Leiomy Maldonado a transgender dancer also known as the “Wonder Woman of Vogue,” stylist Law Roach, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion.
I’m a judge, alongside @leiomy @theestallion and @LUXURYLAW with music from icon @TheOnlyMikeQ I know some of us aren’t from ballroom, but we are here to bring our followings, press and new audiences to the show, to support and celebrate the ballroom community. That is all. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/1H1J5hXi3K— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) February 5, 2020
Jamil Comes Out as Queer
In a message titled, “Twitter is brutal,” Jamil continued to explain her relationship with her casting, opening up a lengthy message by coming out as queer.
“This is why I never officially came out as queer,” she said. “I added a rainbow to my name when I felt ready a few years ago, as it’s not easy within the South Asian community to be accepted.”
“But I kept it low because I was scared of the pain of being accused of performative bandwagon jumping, over something that caused me a lot of confusion, fear and turmoil when I was a kid,” she added. “I didn’t come from a family with *anyone* openly out. It’s also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties. This is absolutely not how I wanted it to come out.”
Jamil goes on to say she is leaving Twitter—which she calls a “hell app”—for a while because she is afraid people will just dismiss her coming out.; however, before she leaves, she directly addresses her casting.
“I know that my being queer doesn’t qualify me as ballroom,” she said. “But I have the privilege and power and a large following to bring to this show…”
“I’m not the MC,” she continued. “I’m not the main host. I’m just a lead judge due to my 11 years of hosting experience, being fully impartial, newcomer to ballroom (like much of the audience will be) and therefore a window in for people who are just discovering it now.”
Response to Jamil’s Coming Out
Unsurprisingly, as Jamil predicted, some remained critical of her casting and others accused of her lying about her identity to skirt criticism.
“Being queer does not make you ballroom,” Lysette said on Twitter. “Being any number of marginalized identities does not make you ballroom. The only thing that makes you ballroom is if you are actually from it. And most of us who are from it, sought it out when we had no one else.”
However, many others online praised the actress for coming out while criticizing the extent to which social media pressures stars to come out before they’re ready.
“And this is why I’m ALWAYS so weary of people hating on presumed “straight” people going on LGBT shows,” one Twitter user said. “No one should EVER have to come out to avoid hate. This is horrifying. Is there legitimate criticism of her being on the show? Yes. But this shouldn’t have had to happen.”
And this is why I’m ALWAYS so weary of people hating on presumed “straight” people going on LGBT shows.— Celine 🍊 (@minytrash) February 5, 2020
No one should EVER have to come out to avoid hate. This is horrifying.
Is there legitimate criticism of her being on the show? Yes. But this shouldn’t have had to happen.
Additionally, several of Jamil’s castmates have also defended and supported her while addressing the backlash.
Why Do We Form Parasocial Relationships? Here’s What an Expert Has to Say
The direct communication offered by social media has “formed a more intimate kind of parasocial relationship.”
Filling Social Voids
Over the past couple of years, discourse about parasocial relationships has flooded the internet. From criticism to memes to misunderstandings, the phrase has been thrown around Twitter in discussions of fan culture and even celebrity cheating scandals.
But why do we engage in parasocial relationships? What do they do for us? Well, according to Dr. Gayle Stever, a professor of psychology at Empire State College who has studied parasocial theory for decades, our brain is always wired to look for a social connection, whether we are with other people or just seeing them on television.
“There’s a part of your brain that can’t really tell the difference between a person in real life and a person through media,” Stever explained in an interview with Rogue Rocket. “So those images and voices are all being processed as if they are real. So if you see the same face and voice over and over and over, your human tendency is to want to form a relationship with that person.”
Earlier studies on parasocial relationships focused on soap operas, which was the closest thing people had to binge-watching prior to Netflix or YouTube. Older people who spent a lot of time alone were especially glued to soaps every day, and these shows filled a social void for people who were lonely.
Parasocial relationships can fill a number of voids for anyone, be they for role models, entertainment, companionship, or even romance. While conducting her research, Stever met a woman who had recently lost her husband to cancer. That woman thought the romantic part of her life was over until she became a fan of Josh Groban and had a crush on him despite her being old enough to be his mother.
“What did that do for her? Well, what she said, ‘I realized that that part of my emotions was still there, that I could still have a romantic feeling about somebody,’” Stever said. “’And I’m thinking now about dating again.’”
Stever pointed to this as an example of a really healthy parasocial relationship, as it helped her break down the walls of her social life. Without you even realizing it, you may have formed some parasocial relationships to fill gaps in your life, too.
The Influence of COVID and Social Media
During the pandemic, the whole world experienced increased loneliness, so we connected to people we saw on our screens. Stever even joked that during lockdowns, she would call talk show host Steven Colbert her “parasocial therapist.”
“He was helping you as a viewer process the challenges of the pandemic by letting you see how he was coping with it,” Stever said.
“In that particular case, using humor to help sort of defuse some of the tension of what people were experiencing socially,” she added. “So you walk away from the show and you feel like, oh, gosh, there’s somebody else who understands what I’m going through.”
Even prior to the pandemic, social media allowed us to get further into the lives of people we had never met. On Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and more, people invited the world into their lives, even into their homes, while looking directly at the camera to address viewers. This direct communication is more likely to elicit parasocial relationships.
“It’s a very interpersonal feeling to the interaction,” Stever noted.
“I do think that that social media, because of the direct address, has formed a more intimate kind of parasocial relationship.”
Social media also opens the door for celebrities to interact back by responding to Tweets or comments. Because of this, Stever said she has started looking at this as a continuum from social to parasocial because in some cases, celebrities might recognize and know who their fans are based on these interactions.
“Obviously that’s not the norm,” Stever added. “But it’s possible.”
The Internet has also changed the way fans connect with one another. Back when Stever began studying fandoms in the ‘80s, fans had to find each other by putting out ads in magazines looking for people to join pen pal groups. Now you can access a world of people with a device that fits in your back pocket.
“They can go on Facebook or Instagram and find like-minded fans and become part of a network of fans and have that be part of their social life,” Stever noted.
Conflating Fan Mentality and Stalkers
Some might think of fans and immediately jump to extreme and obsessive behavior like stalking and harassment. There are countless stories of major stars like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and David Beckham dealing with scary situations and even death threats. Stever, however, does not think this dangerous behavior is as tied to the nature of parasocial relationships as some might think.
“There are people out there who think celebrity worship is a slippery slope to mental illness. I haven’t seen it,” she claimed.
“I’ve done case studies of fans for over 30 years, and I meet a lot of fans face to face,” Stever continued. “Most of the fans I meet who are troubled fans, who are engaging in a way that’s not healthy, have an underlying mental illness.”
In other words, she believes it has far more to do with a mental illness that person likely had before they were a fan of the celebrity than with their interest in the celebrity itself. Based on her observations, the vast majority of fans she has met are grounded in reality and understand they will likely never meet the celebrity they love. She also said she has not noticed that superfans struggle with mental illness at a higher rate than the population at large.
Still, she noted her opinion on the matter could be considered “moderately controversial” because the subject requires more research, so there is room for disagreement among experts.
“It’s the old, it’s already said, chicken and the egg question,” she said. “Which came first, the fixation on the celebrity or the underlying issue that has caused them to become fixated? And, really, we need a whole lot more research to definitively answer that question.”
Some who have experienced stalkers firsthand have agreed with Stever’s observations, though. Alexis Bowater, a TV and news presenter in the U.K. who has been stalked herself, previously told BBC News that she feels superfans and stalkers have little in common.
“Stalkers frighten people and fans don’t,” she told the outlet.
Of course, other experts have noted that in order to prevent a parasocial relationship from becoming unhealthy, it’s important to make sure that they do not replace real relationships with people you know.
But as Stever noted, that doesn’t mean watching something with your favorite celebrity does not feel very personal. That is actually a totally normal part of media consumption today.
“I would venture that these media people we watch over and over, we know more about them than we know about our neighbors,” Stever claimed.
“Emancipation” Producer Apologizes, Hopes He Did Not “Distract” From Film’s Message By Bringing Photo of Enslaved Man to Premiere
He said he plans on donating his collection of historical images to appropriate institutions.
McFarland Brings “Whipped Pete” Photo to Premiere
“Emancipation” producer Joey McFarland apologized on Sunday after facing backlash for bringing the original 1863 photo of the enslaved person the film is based on to the premiere.
“I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter to the Emancipation premiere,” he wrote in a statement on Instagram. “My intent was to honor this remarkable man and to remind the general public that his image not only brought about change in 1863 but still resonates and promotes change today.”
The photo, frequently dubbed “Whipped Peter,” is one of the most famous images depicting the gruesome realities of slavery in America. He is facing away from the camera, revealing the severe scarring all across his back. According to the Library of Congress, the formerly enslaved man was actually named Gordon. Will Smith plays him in “Emancipation,” which follows his escape from slavery.
While walking the red carpet of the film’s premiere, McFarland carried the photo with him.
“I have the photo. This is the original photograph from 1863,” he told Variety. “I wanted it to be here tonight. I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight.”
While lamenting the fact that so many historical artifacts have not been properly preserved, McFarland told Variety that he “took it upon [him]self to curate and build a collection for future generations.” He said his collection will be donated after he dies.
His remarks were met with swift criticism from those who thought it was inappropriate for McFarland to not just own the picture, but to bring it to a Hollywood event.
“Why do you own the photograph? Why did you bring it to a movie premiere if the intent is to preserve it respectfully?” The Black List founder Franklin Leonard tweeted.
“I don’t know, man, but bringing ‘a piece of Peter’ that you ‘own’ to the red carpet of a movie that’s personally enriching you so that you can collect more slave memorabilia that you’ll keep until your death,” he added along with a giphy of Kenan Thompson saying “yikes.”
McFarland Acknowledges Historical Photos “Belong to the World”
Others argued that the photo should belong to Gordon’s family.
“Being in possession of a symbol that reflects our trauma is exactly what our oppressor would do. He is his ancestor’s child,” another person added.
In his apology, McFarland said that he hopes his actions “don’t distract from the film’s message, Peter’s story and just how much impact he had on the world.”
Throughout the development of “Emancipation,” McFarland said he discovered many photos of overlooked individuals with important historical stories. He said he always planned to donate them and believes “there is no better time to begin that process than now.”
“These photographs, which existed before me, will be around long after I am gone; they belong to the world,” he wrote.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Daily Beast)
Joe Rogan Holds Spot As Top Podcaster on Spotify in 2022
Earlier this year, some threatened to boycott the platform over Rogan and the health misinformation he shared on his show.
For the third year in a row, “The Joe Rogan Experience” was the number one podcast on Spotify, the company revealed in its yearly “Wrapped” feature on Wednesday.
“The Joe Rogan Experience” became exclusive to Spotify in 2020 after the host signed a lucrative deal with the audio streaming platform. “Call Her Daddy” by Alex Cooper, also a Spotify exclusive, followed Rogan on the charts. “Anything Goes With Emma Chamberlain,” which will become exclusive to the service next year, came in third.
Rogan’s podcast has made several headlines over the last year as the podcaster faced backlash from medical professionals and major musicians for touting COVID-19 misinformation. Niel Young asked to have his music removed from Spotify in protest of the company’s deal with Rogan, and several other artists soon followed.
Just a few days later, several clips resurfaced of Rogan using a racial slur. Many called to boycott Spotify for platforming Rogan, but his popularity did not seem to fade by the year’s end.
There are over four million podcasts available to stream on Spotify and over the last year, the platform has expanded into new markets.
It also has started launching podcasts from several high-profile figures, including Kim Kardashian’s “The System,” and Meghan Markle’s “Archetypes.” Both of those debuted mid-year and did not crack the annual top-five list.