During the press tour for the 2024 musical adaptation "Mean Girls," rising star Renée Rapp's blunt nature sparked discourse surrounding celebrities and the need for media training. She received mixed reviews for her actions during the press tour and addressed it during a skit on "SNL."
During an interview with GAY TIMES magazine, Rapp publicly calls out the owner of a bus touring company who was rude to herself, her mother and her friends. This, along with her admitting to being ageist against opinionated millennials on "Watch What Happens Live" has exposed her to public criticism.
Now, many are wondering if Rapp is the target of rightful criticism or if the lack of autonomy for women in the media has unfairly made her a pariah.
Why is Renée Rapp a breath of fresh air?
Many people online have commented on Rapp's' direct and confident attitude, and some social media users believe it is due to her lack of media training.
However, many people, especially Generation Z fans, support Rapp. Palmer Hassach, writer for Business Insider, said, "I hope Renée Rapp never succumbs to media training." Hassach said Rapp is so refreshing because there is no need to decipher what she is saying. Palmer also refers to the Internet's attempt to decipher Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez's conversation at this year's Golden Globes.
Recently, rapper Playboicarti made a six-minute appearance on streamer Adin Ross' platform. Carti was seen ignoring Ross' questions and disregarding the agreed-upon stream, leaving Ross to apologize to Carti fans for the rapper's premature exit. Carti has received backlash not only for his demeanor on the stream but for the lack of interaction with his fans. Many stated they were tired of Carti's "mysterious" demeanor, and even other popular content creators like ImDontai and Ludwig commented on the varnishing facade.
Alternatively, Rapp gives her followers a sense of appreciation and familiarity, something that social media users crave. Transparency and authenticity are not commonly present in celebrity interactions. Rapp makes her opinions, values, thoughts, and beliefs known to the public. She is genuinely herself, regardless of the backlash she receives and even when people accuse her of lacking media training. In actuality, she appears to be trained quite well.
Does Renée Rapp lack media training? Or is she simply speaking without self-censoring?
According to Google, media training is the process of training people on how to speak to journalists and communicate effectively when being interviewed. Despite the public's insistence, Rapp shows a great amount of wit and comedic timing that can be attributed to her theatric background, and she does it masterfully. Although there have not been any confirmations on whether Rapp has been through media training, her response style is prominent in the teachings of media trainers.
In Emma Madden's article for The New York Times, Madden talks to media trainers about Rapp addressing the media.
Bill McGowan, founder and chief executive of Clarity Media Group, who facilitated the first media training sessions of the Kardashians' had this to say:
"She's not staying within the established safe boundaries of what's the right thing to say, and that's why her fans are identifying with her and gravitating to her — it's very refreshing ... I mean, think about it — in some ways unhinged has become the new authentic."
McGowan spoke of the shift in media training from assimilation to memorability.
"Media training should be about creating memorable, provocative, interesting things to say and stories to tell,“ McGowan said.
Media trainer Glenn Kinsley has been in the business for 33 years and recently saw his brand of media training become popular in the celebrity world.
"Certainly, in the past few years, it's been blowing up because my thing is getting them to be themselves and to look like they've had no training," Kinsley explained. "Ultimately, the more raw, the more real, the more imperfect — in many ways, the better."
Regardless of media training or not, Rapp is beloved by her fans. Even though her comments on the "Watch What Happens Live" show with Andy Cohen garnered hate online, her reputation remains intact.
A HuffPost article titled "Reneé Rapp Says She's 'Ageist' Toward Millennial Women — And We're Puzzled" includes multiple tweets and posts from millennials responding to Rapp’s quip.
One X, formerly known as Twitter, user stated, "Saying all this as a 'joke' while starring in a nostalgia remake of a millennial film is rich."
Another X user mentions that "Ageism goes both ways … Careful about that energy you put out there." Others have come out to defend her, one X user stating, "I should be offended by Reneé Rapp proudly saying she's ageist but it's just too funny I'm laughing instead."
The online discourse has been covered by media like BuzzFeed News since the interview took place. However, the criticism that Rapp is experiencing seems to be a bit out of proportion to the comments made. Past comments have been made, especially by male celebrities, that have gone under the radar or been left in the past.
Men have said and done outrageous things in the media for decades
In the past decade, movements like MeToo and Black Lives Matter have contributed to the cancel culture phenomenon and other initiatives to promote change and accountability. This has caused a cultural shift that has shown us both the best and worst parts of society.
There is a prominent issue of problematic behaviors and actions done by male celebrities, and it has sparked questions surrounding how they were allowed to get away with certain behaviors, along with how their female counterparts were punished for events that were not equivalent to even a fraction of what they did.
In a 2021 article by GLAMOUR writer Emily Tannenbaum, the resurfacing 1998 clip of David Letterman sucking on the hair of an uncomfortable Jennifer Aniston received media attention. Sparked by the release of the "Framing Britney Spears" documentary, multiple clips surfaced online about the creepy behaviors of male celebrities and interviewers toward female celebrities.
Ashton Kutcher resigned from his role at Thorn, an anti-child sex abuse organization he cofounded, after supporting his former co-star Danny Masterson, who is currently serving 30 years in prison for sexual assault.
Kutcher also received backlash for previous comments made about underaged Hilary Duff, Ashley and Kate Olsen and Mila Kunis.
In 2003, Kutcher said, "And she's one of those girls that we're all waiting for to turn 18. Along with the Olsen twins," referencing Hilary Duff on his hit show Punk'D. Duff was just 15 years old at the time.
Kutcher would be shown to have made similar comments just a year prior in an interview with his now-wife, Kunis. Kunis talks about how Kutcher and Masterson had a running bet during the beginning of the show about who could French-kiss Kunis first. At the show's start, Kutcher was 19 and Kunis was 14.
While Kutcher has been relatively quiet since he resigned from Thorn, Letterman is still very active on his YouTube channel, which receives thousands of views. His appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" has received over 930,000 views with relatively positive comments about his appearance.
While these may seem like extreme situations, they were once seen as normal. Many of these did not affect either of these celebrities' reputations enough to affect them in the long run.
So, with the public's push for Renée Rapp to undergo media training or the criticism she is receiving for her dry humor, the question should be raised about what precedent the public is setting.
Letterman and Kutcher were just two drops in an ocean of problematic behaviors and comments made toward female celebrities in the past three decades.
Rapp's demeanor may be believed to be rude, distasteful or cringe, but there is an obvious double standard when it comes to male public figures. The backlash against her is an example of the expectations and restraints placed on women in the entertainment industry.
Where does this leave female celebrities' voices in the media?
Rapp is aiding in a cultural shift regarding women in the public eye. Women are speaking up about their challenges and are still trying to cross these barriers despite spending years in the entertainment industry. Taraji P. Henson, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Jane Fonda and Anne Hathaway have all spoken out about being mistreated during their careers.
Rapp, just like her peers and predecessors, has sparked commentary about women who speak their minds. In the 2010s, Jennifer Lawrence also caused discourse due to her blunt and monotone nature.
Although not all women in the entertainment industry are as vocal as Rapp, the important thing is that they are not backing down. More and more women are setting boundaries and showing off their personalities. Even women who were subjected to harsh treatment from the media are taking back their autonomy and using it.
Rapp's existence as a rising "it girl" and social media sweetheart is a welcomed adjustment for women. These women who won't settle for bad behaviors will change how the industry treats women and show just how powerful their voices can be.