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24 Times Celebs Thought They Were Saying Something Brave And Profound That Was Actually Really Problematic

I can't believe David Guetta ended racism.

1. One of the worst examples is when Kelly Osbourne thought she was making a powerful statement about the value of immigrants and ended up suggesting immigrants are necessary because they clean toilets.

Screenshots from "The View"

2. Though perhaps even worse is the cringe-worthy time Tom Hiddleston used his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes to talk about the impact his TV show had had on aid workers in South Sudan, leading to some accusing him of trivializing the issue and having an inflated sense of importance.

Screenshots of Tom Hiddleston's acceptance speech

3. While many stars chimed in with impactful stories in the wake of the #metoo movement, Mayim Bialik maybe should've kept silent. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Bialik spoke about how she hadn't been a victim of the casting couch because she was not a "perfect 10" and had the "luxury" of being overlooked. She also spoke about her "self-protecting and wise" choices to reserve her "sexual self" for "private situations," to "dress modestly," and to retrain from acting "flirtatiously with men" — and seemed to suggest other women should do the same, though she acknowledged those "choices might feel oppressive to many young feminists."

Closeup of Mayim Bialik

"In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn't perfect. Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can't be naïve about the culture we live in," she continued, adding that "having others celebrate your physical beauty is not the way to lead a meaningful life." She finished, "If — like me — you're not a perfect 10, know that there are people out there who will find you stunning, irresistible, and worthy of attention, respect, and love. The best part is you don't have to go to a hotel room or a casting couch to find them." It was an odd time to platform this perspective in a conversation about sexual assault and harassment, and even though Bialik was careful not to place blame on women, her words still served to put responsibility on women.

Closeup of Mayim Bialik

4. In another example where Bialik felt the need to make a public statement about something that ended up shaming women, Bialik took issue with a billboard of Ariana Grande. In an article for a parenting site, she wrote, "I am a bleeding heart liberal without exception. But I am old-fashioned. My kids have clothes they only wear to synagogue. I don't favor my kids cursing. I dress modestly. I don't want my kids learning about sex from billboards. Stuff like that. Which is why a few billboards I have seen lately really bug me. There is one for Ariana Grande, and I will go ahead and admit I have no idea who she is or what she does. Based on the billboard, she sells lingerie. Or stiletto heels. Or plastic surgery because every woman over 22 wishes she has that body, I'm sure."

Ariana Grande poses with a side-swept hairstyle, wearing a strapless outfit and a large earring

"Why is she in her underwear on this billboard though? And if she has a talent (is she a singer?), then why does she have to sell herself in lingerie?" Bialik continued. "I mean, I know that society is patriarchal and women are expected to be sexy and sexually available no matter what we do in society, but I guess now I need to explain that to my sons?" Fans were left wondering why Bialik needed to make this statement, feeling it only served to shame women.

Mayim Bialik smiling at an event, wearing a lace dress with a decorative necklace

5. Lena Dunham once made the head-scratching statement that she wished she'd had an abortion, which many felt trivialized how difficult the experience of getting an abortion can be. Speaking on her podcast about visiting a Planned Parenthood in Texas, she said she was asked to share her abortion story. "I sort of jumped. 'I haven’t had an abortion.' ... I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women's options, I myself had never had an abortion. And I realized then that even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue. ... It was an important moment for me then to realize that I had internalized some of what society was throwing at us. And I had to put it in the garbage." She continued, "Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had."

Closeup of Lena Dunham

6. Ahead of cohosting the 2022 Oscars, Amy Schumer discussed the potential to platform global issues at the ceremony. She even said she wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak (the Academy reportedly refused). However, at the actual ceremony, Schumer only made a throwaway reference to Ukraine, lumping the conflict in with attacks on women's and trans rights. "There's a genocide going on in the Ukraine and women are losing all their rights and trans people...and now please welcome Anthony Hopkins," she said before giving the floor to Hopkins, who was introducing Best Actress.

Amy Schumer onstage

7. Sean Penn also made a Ukraine-related gesture that many felt was empty. After discussing the Academy's reported refusal of having President Zelenskyy Zoom in to the ceremony, Penn ranted over what became the biggest moment of the night instead — Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. "The Oscars producer thought, 'Oh, he's not light-hearted enough.' Well, guess what you got instead? Will Smith! ... This fucking bullshit wouldn't have happened with Zelenskyy. Will Smith would never have left that chair to be part of stupid violence. It never would have happened." He then said he wanted to destroy his Oscars by melting them down to be made into bullets for Ukraine to use against Russia.

Sean Penn in a black suit and tie at an event

Penn actually ended up following through, giving one of his statues to President Zelenskyy. "This is for you. It’s just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here, then I’ll feel better and strong enough for the fights," he told Zelenskyy. "When you win, bring it back to Malibu, because I’ll feel much better knowing there’s a piece of me here."

Sean Penn in a white t-shirt, standing with President Zelenskyy who is in a casual jacket, holding a trophy and award

“The Oscar is there in his office, and ready to be melted any time he wants to melt it," he later told the press, calling the gift "a small gesture, symbolic between two friends — inspired by my continuing shame towards the leadership of the Motion Picture Academy in choosing to present Will Smith smacking Chris Rock rather than the greatest symbol of cinema and humanity living today. Their loss." While it was a nice gesture, giving an Oscar to a war-torn country felt sort of useless, especially given Penn kept bringing up Will Smith and the Academy rather than the war in Ukraine.

Sean Penn in a suit speaks at a microphone during an event

8. Too often, celebrities attempt to make political statements on Twitter...which almost always come across wrong. In response to a troll asking if she was trans after she posted a message of trans allyship, Alyssa Milano tweeted, "I'm trans. I'm a person of color. I'm an immigrant. I'm a lesbian. I'm a gay man. I'm the disabled. I'm everything." Milano — who is none of the above, quickly started receiving backlash. Fans were also unhappy with her use of the term "the disabled."

Closeup of Alyssa Milano

9. In another example, after the investigation regarding Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's rape allegations, Bette Midler paraphrased a John Lennon and Yoko Ono song by tweeting, "Women, are the n word of the world." She continued, "Raped, beaten, enslaved, married off, worked like dumb animals; denied education and inheritance; enduring the pain and danger of childbirth and life IN SILENCE for THOUSANDS of years. They are the most disrespected creatures on earth."

Bette Midler smiling, wearing a black v-neck top and embellished skirt at an event

10. Madonna has made several similar comments that attempted to platform women's rights but ended up being problematic. In 2015, she said, "Women are still the most marginalized group" and that "it's moved along for the gay community, for the African American community, but women are still just trading on their ass."

Closeup of Madonna

11. Also in 2015, she said that ageism is "still the one area where you can totally discriminate against somebody and talk shit. Because of their age. Only females, though. Not males. So in that respect, we still live in a very sexist society. No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being Black or dare to say a degrading remark on Instagram about someone being gay. But my age — anybody and everybody would say something degrading to me." While meant to make a statement against ageism, her comments instead served to dismiss the issues that queer and Black people still face.

Madonna performing on stage in a layered outfit with a corset and gloves

12. She's also made remarks specifically disparaging Black men. She once told Spin magazine, “I’ve always in this naive way identified with other minorities because I’m in a minority. You think that somehow unifies you in some philosophical way. But ultimately it doesn’t. Because I’ve found that being a strong female is actually more frightening to the Black men that I’ve dated. It took me a really long time to accept that. ... I believe that I have never been treated more disrespectfully as a woman than by the Black men that I’ve dated. I’ve never actually said that to anybody, but it’s true, and I think it’s a cultural thing." This time, Madonna's comments on women's rights served not only to dismiss racism as lesser than sexism, but also to place blame on Black men.

Closeup of Madonna

13. After the 2020 Oscars declined to nominate any women for Best Director, Natalie Portman attempted to make a positive statement by wearing a cape embroidered with the names of snubbed female directors to the ceremony. However, fans — and Rose McGowan — were quick to point out that Natalie Portman has her own production company, and the only female director it has ever hired is her. Portman has also rarely worked with female directors on feature films.

14. She had previously said, "Here are the all-male nominees" when presenting for Best Director at the Golden Globes in 2018. While making a statement about the lack of female directors in Hollywood seems good, it felt like an empty remark coming from Portman.

Natalie Portman on stage with presenter, text jokes about male nominees, both shown laughing

15. Similarly, at the 2018 Oscars, Emma Stone introduced Best Director by saying, "These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces." While some fans were thrilled at Stone calling out the lack of recognition and support for female directors in Hollywood, others felt that categorizing the four male nominees as "four men" was reductive, especially considering Jordan Peele had been nominated for Get Out. Peele was only the fifth-ever Black person to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar, and no Black person had ever won (conversely, a female director, Kathryn Bigelow, had won the award in 2009).

Closeup of Emma Stone presenting an award

16. Another celebrity who used an awards show speech to make a political statement that didn't quite come off as they'd hoped is Meryl Streep. During her Golden Globes acceptance speech in 2017, she spoke out against then-president Donald Trump, saying, "Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts — which are not the arts." While Streep's comment was well-meaning, many took issue with her comments, especially in regard to martial arts.

Meryl Streep speaking at a podium in a patterned dress, gesturing with her right hand

17. Speaking of Streep — she once served as the jury president of the Berlin Film Festival. At a press conference for the event, a reporter pointed out, "There is a film that is representing Tunisia and the Arab world and Africa in the main competition," then asked Streep, "How do you see this part of the world, and is it easy for you to understand that culture, and are you following any Arab movies?" Streep replied that she had seen Theeb and Timbuktu but didn't "know very much about the Middle East."

Meryl Streep smiling in a black outfit with glasses and earrings against a blue background

"And yet I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures," she continued. "The thing that I’ve noticed is that there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture. And, after all, we’re all from Africa originally; we’re all Berliners; we’re all Africans, really." Streep faced backlash for her comments, especially considering the all-white jury for the festival, and her comments that “This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions." Many felt she was downplaying the importance of racial diversity.

Meryl Streep smiling in a sequined gown with a sheer neckline, wearing dangling earrings

18. Many have accused Taylor Swift of white feminism, where only the perspective of white women is platformed, erasing the issues women of color face. In one example, she called out Nicki Minaj for "pit[ting] women against each other" after Minaj criticized the VMAs for not nominating "Anaconda" for Best Video. As Minaj hadn't named Taylor (whose video was nominated) and had brought up valid points about the lack of body diversity in popular music, many were bothered Swift had centered the conversation around her. Others felt that dismissing valid concerns about representation in a female achievement category as anti-women because it "pits women against each other" was reductive and only served to reinforce a homogenous version of feminism centered around thin, white bodies.

19. Swift also once called out the show Ginny & Georgia for its "deeply sexist" joke about her, writing, "How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you. Happy Women’s History Month I guess." While Taylor was well within her rights to criticize the sexist joke, this public denouncement led to her fans targeting hate at Antonia Gentry, the biracial star of the show, who did not write the joke. While this isn't Swift's fault, it's unfortunate Swift's statement led to hate toward a BIPOC woman.

Screenshot from "Ginny & Georgia"

20. Lana Del Rey has often been accused of glamorizing abuse in her music. Speaking out against these accusations, Del Rey posted a lengthy statement on Instagram called "Question for the culture," where she wrote that she was just a "glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all around the world." She also questioned how other artists were able to get away with sexually explicit music, while she was "crucified" for her own lyrics. While Del Rey made some valid points, the fact that she almost exclusively called out Black artists in her post, along with her statement, "There has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me," caused backlash.

Lana Del Rey performing on stage wearing a sparkling top, holding a microphone

21. In the wake of the infamous Kanye x Taylor Swift feud of 2016, Selena Gomez (who is friends with Swift) tweeted, "There are more important things to talk about… Why can’t people use their voice for something that f***ing matters?" However, fans were quick to point out that Gomez hadn't recently spoken up about social and political issues, such as police brutality, which they felt was hypocritical.

Selena Gomez in a tailored black jacket on a red carpet

22. On the other hand, one celeb who spoke out about police brutality was David Guetta — but people were less than thrilled with his tribute. While livestreaming a DJ set for COVID relief, Guetta said he'd "made a special record in honor of George Floyd," adding, "shoutout to his family" before playing an EDM mashup of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech — along with the Hamster Dance song — and dancing.

David Guetta makes a statement and then pumps his fist on a rooftop DJ setup

23. Demi Lovato has made many impactful statements about disordered eating. Still, her statements fell flat when she called out local Los Angeles yogurt shop The Bigg Chill (known for its sugar-free, vegan, and gluten-free options) on her Instagram. She wrote, "Finding it extremely hard to order froyo from @TheBiggChillOfficial when you have to walk past tons of sugar free cookies/other diet foods before you get to the counter. Do better please. @DietCultureVultures." She then wrote, "So I think I'm gonna have to make that hashtag a thing. I will be calling harmful messaging from brands or companies that perpetuate a society that not only enables but praises disordered eating."

Demi Lovato posing with a side glance, wearing a sleek dress and earrings, tattoo visible on her shoulder

After fans — and the shop itself — pointed out that The Bigg Chill is known for its options for people with dietary restrictions (such as those with celiac or diabetes), Lovato doubled down, telling the brand they should label their sugar-free and vegan options as being "for celiac or diabetes or vegans." Fans were still disappointed in Demi's response, especially as she disparaged a small local business during the pandemic, when many businesses struggled. She later apologized, but said, “My intuition said speak up about this, so I did. And I feel good about that. What I don’t feel good about is some of the way it’s been interpreted and how the message has gotten misconstrued.”

Two people holding cups of ice cream with toppings, neon sign in background reads "The Big O"

24. And finally, Olivia Wilde made multiple comments suggesting Don't Worry Darling's sex scenes were empowering toward women. In an interview with Vogue, she questioned, "Why isn’t there any good sex in film anymore?" and brought up the lack of female pleasure in cinema. In an interview with Variety, Olivia Wilde declared, “Men don't come" in the film — "only women here!” Her comments seemed to suggest that the sex scenes were a vital, feminist component to her film — and then the film came out. (Spoilers ahead.)

Close-up of Olivia Wilde in a black outfit with long earrings, smiling at an event

In the film, Harry Styles's character traps his girlfriend, played by Florence Pugh, in a fake 1950s-style reality, taking her from her job and her family and friends, and also brainwashing and gaslighting her into thinking this is all normal. In that context, the movie's sex scenes feel highly coercive and uncomfortable rather than a celebration of women's pleasure. Wilde's comments feel especially off-color and reductive in that light...ESPECIALLY considering Pugh actively expressed her discomfort with the media's focus on the sex scenes, which Wilde contributed to.

Screenshot from "Don't Worry Darling"

What's another time a celeb really thought they *said something* that fell super flat? Let us know in the comments!