The vocal minority is getting louder.
If you want to know why your teenager is putting glitter on their face, watch “Euphoria.” The “Degrassi”-adjacent HBO drama, which follows a dysfunctional ensemble of high school students in the throes of addiction, has fundamentally changed the presentation of Gen Z culture and launched its cast to stardom. Unfortunately, in today’s climate, stardom comes at an unreasonable price.
This past weekend, Sydney Sweeney, 24, a Spokane native who plays the character Cassie Howard, posted photos on Instagram from a birthday party she threw for her mother. Zoom in far enough (like, really far) and you’ll find some members wearing MAGA-style hats reading “Make Sixty Great Again” and shirts emblazoned with the “Blue Lives Matter” flag.
While I’m pro law enforcement, I personally disagree with the term “blue lives” — in my opinion, there is no such thing as a “blue” life, as a police officer can doff his uniform or change his career at any time. If you disagree with me, awesome! Diversity of thought and difference in perspective are a few of my fav-o-rite things. But for the vocal minority that dominates Twitter, disagreeing wasn’t enough. They had to drag Sweeney through the proverbial mud.
Cyberbullying celebrities isn’t new. You’ve probably done it yourself. (Yes, you!) But now that I’ve seen a young woman’s body objectified solely based on the political beliefs of her family, I can confidently say (a), I’ve seen it all, and (b), I’ve seen enough.
There are individuals in this country who are so misunderstanding of what it means to be a member of an opposing political party that they need two, or three, or four degrees of separation between themselves and people they disagree with at all times, even through their television screen. If they found out their father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate attended the RNC, they’d lock themselves in a bunker. Wait until they learn that 47% of Americans either identify as Republican or lean Republican.
But let’s suspend our belief and say, hypothetically, that Republicans are the racist boogeymen angry Twitter users make them out to be. If we lived in a world where the GOP sent white hoods to new members upon registration, I’d absolutely distance myself from my mother and father. But why would it matter, then, if an actress from a television show has parents who vote red? Not everyone ascribes to the ideologies under which they were raised — many of my conservative friends come from Democrat households, and vice versa. Further, even if Sweeney is a registered Republican, why should an actress’ beliefs matter to a show’s fanbase? I have a performing arts degree, and I can safely assert that an actress’ job is to portray a fictional character, not to broadcast her personal beliefs. Or are her critics so divorced from reality that they can’t discern the difference between an actor and a character?
I can’t help but see myself, and every young woman raised in a politically-conscious home, in Sweeney — defined by the most extreme affiliates of a party I didn’t even choose, and terrified to explore my own beliefs because of it.
Conservatives aren’t exempt from this kind of rhetoric, either. How many times have you seen a Facebook friend try to merge the words “Democrat” and “demon,” or label Kamala Harris a ho? We may liken our favorite social media account to a personal diary, but the merit of posting a sentiment online has far-reaching implications. We have no idea who will read that Tweet, or that Facebook post. (Maybe it will end up in a Broad + Liberty editorial.)
This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. This is an America versus itself issue.
Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. Maybe I’m naïve to listen to an overly vocal, microscopic minority. Maybe this is a test in patience from God, and by writing this op-ed, I’ve failed. (Sorry, God.) But I can’t help but see myself, and every young woman raised in a politically-conscious home, in Sweeney — defined by the most extreme affiliates of a party I didn’t even choose, and terrified to explore my own beliefs because of it.
Should HBO ignore this not-debacle and renew Sweeney’s contract, I’d consider it a win, not against “woke culture,” but for common sense. Thankfully, the producers have a while to react, as season three won’t hit HBO until 2024. But if Sweeney is written out of “Euphoria,” I’m certain the stellar filmmakers at The Daily Wire would be happy to write her a starring role.
[Author’s note: If you caught the Mel Brooks reference, you have a special place in my heart.]
Leslie Sattler edits for Broad + Liberty. Previously, she worked as Managing Editor at Our National Conversation, a startup specializing in nonpartisan journalism. She has a degree from NYU.