The Hyena effect: How the media bullies celebrities, from a U.S. entertainment writer’s perspective

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How is it that the greatest advocates for anti-bullying and political correctness, us in the media, are the same people responsible for the greatest bullying scandals the world has ever known? 

This is a big problem — almost too big to analyze, but it is a problem that deserves attention: how is it that we in the media, the supposed greatest advocates for inclusion, are also the worlds greatest bullies?

As an entertainment writer, I want to focus for a minute on bullying media coverage for movies, television, and music — actors, directors, people in the show business, and singers.

Let’s get into it.

Let me start by saying that I’m not perfect either when it comes to throwing out criticism. I did it once, and I regret it very much.

To be fair, I simply stated I didn’t think a certain actor was a good fit for a certain role in a movie (that is yet to be released or filmed). But it didn’t feel right. It doesn’t sit well with me — especially when my voice joins a chorus of similar opinions printed on the web for the world to see.

It so quickly turns into a mob — or rather a pack on the attack.

When we team up and nitpick together, there is a powerful dynamic there that, in some instances, is enough to sink an actor’s career or damage it greatly at least. In fact, some people never really recover from the labels we, in the media, give them.

So what is bullying? It can take many forms — cyberbullying is one of them. Merriam Webster defines cyberbullying as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (such as a student) often done anonymously”

Does that sound like the perfect definition for some media cycles? Say for Rebecca Black or Logan Paul? It sure does to me.

Now, am I saying that we limit the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press — liberties guaranteed by the bill of rights? No. I am simply saying, from a human perspective, in the words of the band Magic, why we gotta be so rude?

Like, guys, colleagues, why are we so darn mean to some individuals?

We’re so used to whiplashing people in the media at the slightest whim, but have we even begun to consider that these are real people we’re hurting? No one deserves this treatment and it’s no wonder so many celebrities hate us.

Take Logan Paul for example. People hid behind the guise of speaking from the moral high ground and lambasted this kid for showing a video of someone who had committed suicide. Do I agree with his decision? No. But the vile hatred thrown his way in the aftermath of that video was disgusting.

And before you feel offended that I just defended Logan Paul, know that I spent many years as a suicidal individual, and Logan Paul brought a smile to my face in those dark times. So when this controversy broke out, I subscribed to his channel to show my support — as did many people.

No, he’s not perfect. He’s owned up to that. And no, I don’t agree with everything he says or does. But you have to take the good with the bad. Otherwise, we are just pointing fingers.

And what about Lindsay Lohan? Why do we have to kick an actor when they’re down? She struggled with drug use, yes. But the amount of negativity she encountered from the media for her mistakes was just sad.

In an interview with Paper, we got to see the effect this negative coverage had on her, as she shared the following.”I would love to know why I get constantly clobbered in the press. I could do 99 things right and one thing wrong, but it’s that one thing that will be focused on. Behind the scenes I do what I can to be the best version of me, which never gets mentioned. I am also human. I make mistakes. That’s all that seems to get reported.”

Later, sharing more, she said, “A lot of people do a lot of good things for other people, and it’s like a flash in the pan, where if it’s something negative it sticks with you forever.”

It shouldn’t. And the fact that published negativity is out there forever is sad.

Britney Spears is another example of someone who has suffered a similar amount of shaming after dealing with mental health issues. You read that correctly: Mental health issues. What a pathetic thing to shame someone for.

The year 2007 was the year of the press against Britney. And then there’s Justin Bieber. The list goes on and on.

This is why I referred to the Hyena effect in the title of this article. People, like hyenas, seem to love to join with others to tear someone apart. And this? This is bullying. No other way to describe it.

Another form of bullying in the press is the “bad performance” type, where we just don’t like the way an actor performed in a certain role or the way a director led a movie. This can be devastating to certain people.

Some of the saddest examples of this are with the poor individuals involved in the Star Wars franchise, past, and present. The man who played Jar Jar Binks, for example, contemplated suicide following the media backlash for his performance in The Phantom Menace.

This is the honest effect words can have; this is what group bullying can do to a person who’s just trying to make an honest living. Words are incredibly painful. When did we forget that? Have we sold our soul for clicks and views?

Well, it’s not worth it.

I mentioned prior that I disagree with legislating speech — but with situations like this one, anyone can see the reasoning behind that point of view, even if we disagree with it, right?

What I’m trying to say is, ya’ll, let’s be nice. These celebrities we cover are people too, not just objects for our monetary gain.

Is there a place for banding together and exposing people who do wrong? Yes. The #MeToo movement was a perfect example of that. It was extremely needed.

We just don’t need to go around torching people simply because they’re struggling or because we didn’t like a performance. What kind of a double standard is that? We can’t preach political correctness and then turn around and smear an actor in the next article.

It’s ridiculous and it needs to stop.

Let’s calm down our hyena-like tendencies and remember that, first, we are humans.



Ryan Mekkes is the editor and founder of Commyounicate Magazine. He is an avid martial artist, a musician, and a fitness enthusiast, certified through ACE as a personal trainer.