WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: Sydney Sweeney attends the 28th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party sponsored by IMDb, Neuro Drinks and Walmart on February 09, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Sydney Sweeney Can and Should Be Allowed to Celebrate Her Body Without Being Defined by It

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Last week, Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney went viral on Twitter—but for the last reason anyone would’ve wanted. The actress, who also frequently models for Rihanna’s lingerie brand Savage X Fenty, started trending after a series of now-suspended Tweets took aim at her looks—making fun of her and implying that with smaller breasts, Sweeney would somehow be unattractive.

Now, by any standards, it’s hard to imagine a world where anyone would would find the obviously beautiful actress unattractive, but that’s beside the point. Cyberbullying certainly isn’t a new phenomena—unfortunately, it’s been one of the hallmarks of the Internet since its very inception. But what’s notable about this particular instance is that it’s one of the most significant examples in recent memory where a celebrity openly responded to the hate, which Sweeney did in a vulnerable Instagram live video shared with her followers. In the tear-filled video, Sweeney explained:

So.. apparently I’m trending on Twitter right now for being ugly. And I would never actually do this, like ever, but I think it’s really important for people to see how words actually effect people, and I know everyone says, “You can’t read things, you shouldn’t read things,” but I’m a person … I’m just sitting here with my dog watching HGTV wearing my Snuggie. People need to be nicer on social media, because it’s really fucked up.

Sweeney’s Instagram live was one of the rare examples of the internet getting to see the kind of emotional toll it takes on celebrities—and although her openness and honesty in the video garnered support online and a wave of support for the actress followed, the fact that the incident happened in the first place still points to the fact that we have a lot further to go when it comes to celebrity culture—and Sweeney reminds us that, although they may be in the public eye, celebrities are still people.

There’s a frequent rhetoric surrounding celebrities, whenever they address online vitriol or criticism they receive in any capacity, that they somehow “signed up” for the hate when they chose to become an actor or a performer. There is some truth there—by virtue of being in the public eye, you inherently open yourself up to being criticized—but just because people have the opportunity/ability to be hateful doesn’t mean they should. It’s a frankly mind-boggling lack of empathy that can only be born out of an online culture built around the ability to hide behind a keyboard and not have to face the consequences of one’s actions, but Sweeney’s Instagram live is a bitter reminder that even though we may not see their reactions 100% of the time, celebrities can be and very much are impacted by hurtful words online.

One would hope that two decades of anti-bullying PSAs all over the internet would be enough to dispel this kind of vitriol online, but as Sweeney pointed out in her Instagram live, we far too often forget that celebrities are real people with bleeding hearts and emotions just like everyone else.

What’s more is that the hate toward Sweeney wasn’t just your standard, run-of-the-mill cyberbullying. It also highlights the specific kind of hatred and cruelty frequently hurled toward young, attractive women in Hollywood. Much of Syndey Sweeney’s fame and success comes from her modeling work for Savage x Fenty, a gig for which she shows off and celebrates her body. But, like with countless other women in the industry, Sweeney is held to an impossible double standard when it comes to her beauty.

She’s expected to maintain a level of physical attractiveness and fitness so she can get work—notoriously, women in the industry tend to be dropped after a certain age when they’re no longer considered “in their prime.” But as the hateful tweets from last week demonstrate, she’s also expected to just smile and take it when she’s denigrated on the basis that her body is, supposedly, her only valuable asset—women in the spotlight are expected to maintain their beauty while also never standing up for themselves when they’re objectified for it. It’s a crushing blow for anybody to be told that they’re “only attractive” because of their body, so that anyone would think that celebrities are expected to handle such criticism differently than the rest of us is upsetting.

Fortunately, though, fans have rallied around Sweeney since the incident—not just dispelling the hate by reinforcing that she is, in fact, beautiful (I’m still trying to wrap my head around someone thinking that she isn’t), but also by lifting her up and celebrating her ability as a talented actress and her integrity as a person. Yes, Sydney Sweeney’s career does consist in large part of modeling, but she should be allowed to celebrate her body without being defined by it. A talented actress with undeniable beauty both inside and out, hopefully Sydney’s Sweeney’s strength and vulnerability in posting her Instagram live in the face of cyberbullying can take us one step closer to ridding the internet of this kind of hateful rhetoric for good.

(image: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

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Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates