There’s no getting around the fact that if a celebrity does something offensive or questionable, they’ll be called out for it. That’s no surprise. What does come as a shocking fact, however, is when it’s the celebrities people least expect – like the recent Billie Eilish offense.
Arguably one of the largest rising stars in the music industry, Eilish put herself under attack recently when news circulated about who she is dating, an old video resurfaced, and she posted some questionable captions on Instagram.
“I think so many people in Gen Z are on this upbringing of ‘Everyone’s finally waking up – our country is waking up,’” Silver Barker, a sophomore studying journalism, said. “Billie Eilish is one of the people who was an idol to everyone, previously, before this. It was totally a shock to hear that everything went down.”
First came the Instagram posts. Eilish is on the young side of musicians in the industry, so she hasn’t had a lot of time or experience with publicly dating while famous. Thus, fans jumped to many conclusions regarding Eilish’s sexuality, speculating that she was queer. This began with some discourse around her song, “wish you were gay,” where people thought if she wasn’t actually queer this song could be considered queerbaiting with its content.
But this speculation really took flight with Eilish’s latest track, “Lost Cause.” On her Instagram, she posted several shots of her alongside the women in her music video, with the caption “i love girls.”
“When an artist or person in general is popular they tend to be criticized or looked at even closer by the general population because they have such a large following,” Emma Hembree, a junior studying entrepreneurship, said in a message. “I think people who do what she has done and stuff along those lines should be held accountable for their actions and words said/stated, but also remembering that she and everyone is human.”
Upon scrolling through comments, anyone can see her fans immediately assumed she was coming out – or at least hinting at her sexuality in a way. Which is why fans were shocked to see Eilish cozying up to Matthew Tyler Vorce, who is now publicly referred to as her boyfriend.
Matters were made even worse when fans discovered Vorce’s old tweets and Facebook posts where he used offensive language and slurs about Black and gay people. Additionally in 2012, he described musician Adele as “British Miss Piggy.”
Vorce issued a public apology when Eilish’s fans held him accountable for his words. He wrote, “I want to apologize for the things that I wrote on social media in the past. The language I used was hurtful and irresponsible and I understand how offensive those words are. Whether it was a lyric, a quote, or just me being dumb, it does not matter.”
He continued, “I feel ashamed and deeply sorry that I used them in any context. It is not how I was raised and it is not what I stand for. I shouldn’t have used this language in the first place and I won’t use it again. I am so sorry for the hurt I haven caused. I take full responsibility and continue to hold myself accountable for my actions.”
Barker was underwhelmed with his apology.
“I think once you have the light on you or you’re in the spotlight, that’s when people apologize,” Barker said. “I don’t think it was truly sincere. Those words – I think you need to understand what you have said and what harm you could’ve caused to people.”
As if the queerbaiting and Vorce scandals weren’t enough, an old video of Eilish, only mere weeks later, resurfaced where she was using a racial slur. The edited compilation video featured her mouthing the words to Tyler, the Creator’s 2011 song, “Fish,” where he uses an anti-Asian derogatory term.
In a lengthy Instagram story apology, Eilish talked about how “appalled and embarrassed” she was about the video and tried to set the record straight “because I’m being labeled something that I am not.”
She explained in the apology she was a young teenager when she mouthed that word that she didn’t know was a derogatory term about the Asian community, and said she wants to “puke” for knowing better now.
"This song was the only time I'd ever heard that word as it was never used around me by anyone in my family," she wrote. "Regardless of my ignorance and age at the time, nothing excuses the fact is that it was hurtful. And for that, I am sorry."
At another point in the video Eilish uses a gibberish voice, which she explains wasn’t meant to imitate anyone but was merely her “goofing around.” Seeing as though there was no misconstruing the racial slur, Eilish explained how anti-racist she actually is in the Instagram story as well.
"I not only believe in, but have always worked hard to use my platform to fight for inclusion, kindness, tolerance, equity, and equality," she wrote. "We all need to continue having conversations, listening, and learning. I hear you and love you. Thank you for taking the time to read this."
Barker and Hembree both believe not only Vorce, but Eilish’s apology as well, were performative.
“I feel like they might have only apologized due to the fact that Billie is being attacked for stuff she had and has said,” Hembree said in a message.
Barker feels it’s like the old saying: “you’re only sorry you got caught.”
“You’re not really sorry about what you said,” Barker said.
Though both Barker and Hembree believe Eilish should be held accountable by her fans and herself due to these actions, they also recognize she is still very young and in the process of learning. The key to figuring out if she’s really sorry, Barker believes, is what she does next now that she’s publicly apologized.
“I think she needs to go further and educate herself,” Barker said. “She’s playing the ignorant card. Especially when you’re someone famous and have a large audience, you need to know the stuff that’s coming out of your mouth and what you’re saying before you say it, because a lot of people are watching you. I think there could be redemption. Cancel culture can become very harsh, and it just depends on if she feels like she wants to keep going and try to redeem herself and prove to her fans that she will take steps to further educate herself.”