Celebrities behaving badly is nothing new, and the history of Hollywood is dotted with public apologies and headline-grabbing scandals. In recent years, however, the tenor and frequency of these incidents has been dubbed “cancel culture” as a moment of bad behavior can get a celebrity roasted on social media with calls for boycotts of their work and associated products. Chelsea Handler is no stranger to being in the proverbial hot water as her own behavior has landed her in the harsh glare of public scrutiny more than once.
Now the star is using her platform to speak up on behalf of Chrissy Teigen, a celebrity whose past bullying behavior has caught up with her and sent former fans fleeing.
Chelsea Handler is no stranger to controversial moments
Perhaps it was prophetic that Handler rose to fame as a comedian starring on a show called Girls Behaving Badly. The brash style of comedy for which Handler is best known is raunchy and pushes the envelope in ways that women aren’t expected to behave. Over the years, Handler has earned a reputation of being incredibly open and honest about her flaws. She’s also shown herself to be no shrinking violet, frequently getting into spats with other celebrities over what she sees as their own bad behavior.
As Entertainment Weekly reports, Handler also managed to draw the ire of social media anti-racist activists when she tweeted about the Oscars in 2014. The star had been invited to take over the Twitter feed for The Huffington Post. Some of her commentary was deemed racially insensitive as she promoted her own book Uganda Be Kidding Me anytime 12 Years a Slave was mentioned and took an insulting dig at Lupita Nyong’o.
Chelsea Handler defends Chrissy Teigen
Speaking with The New York Times, Handler reflected on how the political landscape has made her reflect on her own place in the world. Promising to be “kinder and gentler” in her public persona, Handler took some time to reflect on cancel culture and what it means for celebrities.
For Handler, the key is about sincere apologies, and she believes that many people in the crosshairs of social media ire are skipping out on accountability. “Listen, there’s an evolution with everybody. And the problem with a lot of these men that have been canceled is they’re not sincerely apologizing. My therapy, my whole thing, has been on public record. I’m not pretending or faking or saying, ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ after the fact. I actually have had an evolution. I do want to be kinder and gentler. I want my jokes to not be reflective of a time in my life that I wasn’t aware of how they impact people,” Handler explained.
She then turned her attention to Chrissy Teigen, specifically: “She admitted her bad behavior. She said, ‘I’m really sorry.’ And that’s what we should all be doing when confronted with anything we’ve done — is say, ‘I’m sorry. Thank you for letting me know. I’m going to do better.’ Period. End of story. I don’t think your outrageousness, as a comedian, has to come from something that’s going to get you in trouble. You can be outrageous within the confines of not offending other people.”
Comedians have to rein in strong personas
Chelsea Handler also reflected on how walking the line of public accountability is particularly difficult as a comedian. “The thing about being a comedian is you have a very strong point of view and that’s why people come to see you. So, that’s where the good stuff is going to happen,” Handler explained.
Knowing how to rein in the comedy in order to remain accountable for the harm of a joke’s impact is something that many stand-up comedians have had to reckon with in recent years. As the concept of cancel culture and our societal awareness of the impacts of oppression continue to grow, it’s something more and more public figures will need to consider.
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