Forgetful Folks: Are We Too Hard On The People We Used To Call Our Icons?

We told you yesterday about all the fuss that took place on what would have been Whitney Houston’s 54th birthday. The bubbling but longstanding feud between singers Brandy and Monica was the center of attention online after both women paid tribute to the legend. Monica’s message was pretty straightforward. As for Brandy’s, her messages seemed to make it seem like she had the monopoly on Whitney’s heart, saying at one point, “no one on this planet loves you the way I do.(yeah I said it because that is what I know because that’s what you told me).” It didn’t end well, with people taking Brandy’s words as a jab at Monica, so Brandy, who had enough of being criticized, said that alleged rival needed to “check her evil a– fans”:

#Brandy tells #Monica to get her evil ass fans: “Come get your hating ass pigeons put them in their place … I’m not to be f*cked with today”

A post shared by NEW ACCOUNT (SPREAD THE WORD) (@thejasminebrand_) on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:21pm PDT

Whitney’s birthday came and went, and instead of the focus being on her, a good chunk of the evening was spent with people tearing Brandy apart for, in their opinion, always doing too much when it comes to Whitney and her ongoing issues with Monica. While she probably could have focused less on herself in relation to the icon and more on Whitney, I felt really bad for Brandy. As Veronica Wells pointed out, there is something deeper behind the 38-year-old’s messages. Whitney, who no one can deny was close to Brandy (she handpicked the Moesha star for their remake of Cinderella), died on the singer’s birthday just days after they reportedly talked for hours on the phone. To say she was heartbroken and even confused by the loss would be an understatement.

But this is pretty common in the Internet age. Someone shares something unflattering of a star and social media jumps on it — and them. And while people have the right to say what they want, especially when someone engages in unflattering behavior publicly, there is a difference between speaking on it and trying to beat someone when they’re down. This is something that happens more and more with Brandy, and with a lot of other stars we used to Stan for.

It’s interesting that this happened at a time when both women were trying to honor Whitney. Many lauded her yesterday, but many also spent a good chunk of time laughing at and criticizing the legend near the end of her life. That seems to be the habit. We laugh now at our former icons and then we cry later. And yes, I’ve been guilty of it, too.

I remember when Mariah Carey did that very controversial performance of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in 2014 and when her vocals were isolated, she sounded nothing like the Mariah we’d fallen in love with years ago. I remember writing about it, and reveling in the discomfort of my co-worker, who was and is still a true Mariah Carey fan. Since then, there have been countless other performances gone viral, and not for good reason. While my friend agreed that the singer isn’t what she used to be, she’s sad to see some of the negative commentary online about her performances. She made a good point that I even had to take heed to and do better about:

“I just hope this isn’t going to be a situation where she becomes the butt of the joke for the rest of her life and then when she passes everyone is going to act shattered,” she said. “It’s been done before. Are we going to criticize her out of the industry after everything she’s accomplished and then cry when she’s gone?”

A similar point was made by Keke Palmer yesterday during the height of the Brandy criticism. She said that she wasn’t going to sit back and watch the slander of a person who opened up so many doors for young Black women in the entertainment industry, not only as a singer, but as an actress, role model, beauty pioneer and more. Labels and accomplishments no one can take away. As Palmer stated, the “Internet has a short memory.”

But it’s how we’ve done quite a few of the icons (and if you say Brandy’s career, as a teenager alone, wasn’t iconic, you’re kidding yourself). Mariah, Whitney, Michael, Lauryn. It’s also how we do people we knew that we listened to and pretended to be fans of just a few years ago. We may have rocked out to “Foolish” in 2002, but God forbid someone see Ashanti on stage now. We may have played Songs in A Minor over and over again, but Alicia Keys can’t catch a break today. It seems if you’re not the Beyoncés, Rihannas or Solanges of the world, then you’re deemed irrelevant, asked to “hang it up” and made a joke of until something unfortunate happens, and that is truly unfortunate.

Sure, Brandy and many other artists act or perform in ways that at times warrant some disapproval. Still, there is a difference between criticizing and crucifying people to the point that every mention of them is deemed a joke. We give more respect to people who’ve been gone for years and had much shorter careers because we feel our former icons, who are still present, no longer live up to our expectations. And it’s especially discouraging when you can clearly see something deeper is going on with them. It may be easier to laugh and shake your head at them, or to even think you need to pity these people, but honestly, it’s better to just want to see good things for them, and if not, at least just leave them be.