It’s stupid and reductive how female musicians are always pegged against each other. Lorde vs Selena, Taylor vs Miley, Courtney vs. Kathleen…. okay that last one actually involved physical assault, but still. How often does anyone compare Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber? BUT THEY’RE BOTH CALLED JUSTIN! THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!
And despite standing next to each other at the Met Gala, proving that, like soft serve and French fries, they are different yet capable of being appreciated simultaneously, the internet is determined to see Rihanna and Beyoncé end in a Scar and Mufasa-style showdown in which one gets thrown into a pit of hungry hyenas. (The hyenas being Twitter, probably.) We’re constantly trying to find divisive things that make one somehow better than the other. With these two it’s usually “realness.”
Depending on where you stand on the Queen Bey worship spectrum, you would have seen her perfectly curated Instagram feed, a perfect ratio of family throwbacks, Blue Ivy, #nomakeup selfies, and daily outfits as indicative of either supreme realness or a large team of people hired solely to find the perfect filter for a faceless baby head. Rihanna, on the other hand, clogged up our feeds with 28 consecutive pictures of herself drunk and smoking various substances in Aspen before being booted off the app for posting a nipple shot. I knew she was vain — fuck, I would be — but also knew she was funny and she loved her fans with the power of a thousand boob grabs.
Both women had their public realness perception do a total 180 this week. Beyoncé experienced Elevatorgate, showing her perfect life wasn’t so perfect after all. Rihanna just showed she’s actually a massive asshole by ripping a new one in a teenage fan who had dressed as her for prom. (Lesson learned, always go as Beyoncé.)
ICYMI, 16-year-old Baltimore teen Alexis Carter decided to pay homage to the green winged Alexandre Vauthier jumpsuit Rihanna wore to the Echo Awards. Carter posted a photo of her outfit to Twitter, and was immediately laid into by the internet, who trolled her relentlessly with the #PromBat hashtag. The whole thing would have gone relatively unnoticed though if it wasn’t for a bored Rihanna, who made the classy decision to RT a few of her favorite digs to her close circle of 35 million followers. Bit rich coming from the person who’s apparently been stealing the aesthetics of small subcultures for years.
Carter later told Fox Baltimore, ”she don’t love her fans like she says she does.”
The incidents prompt the question though: Is realness what we really crave afterall? As consumers of pop culture we supposedly crave authenticity, whether it’s who made up GHE20G0TH1K first, whether your thigh gap is photoshopped, or whether your marriage is as good as your last album suggested. If we love one thing harder than fawning over perfection, it’s seeing someone’s perfect image crack and calling them out via memes and hashtags.
Maybe the façade of realness is what we really want. As someone who was never a big fan of Beyoncé until December 2013, knowing and being only too happy to inform my silly Bey minion friends that she doesn’t actually update her Tumblr herself, I now consider a night out incomplete if it doesn’t involve a bad karaoke respect-singalong to “Drunk in Love.” (Sorry, 50% of my cab drivers of the last five months.) Four days post-Elevatorgate, the memes are getting a bit tired. And I don’t feel smug that my theory about her has been proven. I feel weirdly sorry that the imperfections in her life have been exposed this way.
As for Rihanna, what happens when being “real” just makes you kind of an asshole?
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