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Guy Fieri and Jonah Hill's Magical Parasocial Safety Net

By Chris Revelle | Celebrity | July 11, 2023 |

By Chris Revelle | Celebrity | July 11, 2023 |


Jonah Hill and Guy Fieri have gotten up to some antics lately! Hill texted his now-ex-girlfriend Sarah Brady a lot of misogynistic bullshit dressed with therapy-speak and bathed in queasy gaslight and Fieri hung out with former president/current fascist meathead Donald Trump and famous racist/misogynist/anti-Semite Mel Gibson. Thank goodness their apologists and fans are out in force for them! They very nearly had to face the consequences of their own actions like everyone else, but their supporters will make sure that never really happens.

It’s a strange dynamic, not unlike the sweaty clamor around Caroline Calloway, this knee-jerk defense of a public figure when they’ve done something wrong. Hill made a choice to berate his girlfriend with what he calls “boundaries” and engaged in what appears to be a prolonged campaign to shame her for her clothing, having male friends, having female friends he didn’t approve of, being a surfer, and who even knows what else. Those were choices he made. It is not unreasonable to see those texts and conclude that he’s engaged in misogynistic and controlling behavior. The onus isn’t upon us to find some angle where this is natural or OK, as much as Candace Owens wants us to believe otherwise. Or at least, if someone like Emily Nussbaum has anything to say about it, what Hill did isn’t okay, but sharing texts? Beyond the Rubicon!

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Our poisonous culture comes for us all. We begin with an assumption of dishonesty when a woman speaks ill of a famous man. And why wouldn’t we? We’ve marinated in decades of media portraying women using false allegations to assail men, so it’s natural this ridiculous and wrong idea would surface, but it doesn’t make it right. I’m sure we’d hear calls for proof if Brady hadn’t shared the texts, but because she led with proof, the apologists must maintain instead that sharing private texts is the new frontier for violated decency. There’s no reason anyone should be silent about their abusive experiences. Their abuser being famous and starring in a thing people like could truly not matter less, but here we are anyway, insisting that sharing texts is a graver sin than trying to control your partner. Anything to defend maleness, whiteness, and wealth.

And then we have Fieri, who’s had an interesting ride on the public opinion rollercoaster. Gone are the days of elaborately clowning on his restaurant and instead he’s beloved as a benign and even charitable figure. I don’t have any strong feelings for him either way, so when I hear that he spent publicly viewable time with Trump and Gibson, I feel no conflict about what I see: a rich white man in control of his actions deciding to publicly associate with two other rich white men who are infamously bigoted and awful. You don’t need to believe Fieri is secretly MAGA to have an issue with this. Fieri very well could be, but I don’t know that for a fact. What I do know is that hanging out with two of the worst people in the world is a choice that Fieri made. Publicly buddying up to two men who have horrifying pasts of maligning women and aligning with Nazis has implications like implicit support and approval. Fieri is aware of this and if he isn’t, it’s not down to us as his audience to smooth it out for him. It is not unreasonable or wrong to side-eye or criticize someone for sharing a friendly space with two famous bigots nor is it unreasonable to make some conclusions about that. It’s not on us to see that and find some other explanation. This is what you get when you sit at a table with Nazis: we reasonably conclude you’re cool with Nazis.

So why are people so hot to save these men from the consequences of their own actions? It comes down to parasocial relationships. It’s a concept associated with YouTube influencers and streamers, but it’s something that’s existed for as long as we’ve had celebrities. It’s the notion that a consumer has a deep or special connection to a public figure whom they’ve never met and interacted with solely through their media. It’s one of those things that makes you say, “The internet was a mistake.” It definitely feels that way now. Someone’s parasocial relationship with a celebrity, an inherently illusory thing, is enough to have this many people bending their morals like, well fascism is wrong and Trump sucks, but I really like Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, so that’s OK. Is that really all it takes? All someone needs to be OK with Trump hang-outs and telling their partner they have to avoid all other men is that it’s done by a celebrity they like? Guy Fieri and Jonah Hill have no idea we exist, but it’s extremely important to a surprising number of people to go out and do their PR for them on social media like a pick-me safety net. This illusory, imaginary connection with no bearing or presence in the waking world seems to be of such high value to people that they’re totally OK with hand-waving Hill demanding his girlfriend sever ties with all male friends.

This embarrassing bootlicking seems to have its ties in, what else, capitalism. It demands that we consume, no matter what. It demands that we are desperately precious about all corporate products so that we are willing to keep consuming no matter what their creators do. There can be no end to our consumption, so we’re primed to set aside whatever happens. We need to loosen our attachment to celebrities. We need to let them take the response that comes from the choices they made. There is no Food Network show nor any movie that is somehow worth believing misogyny and bigotry are wrong unless our faves are into it. Jack White knows. It’s time for us to realize it too.

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Chris Revelle shouts into the media void with his pals on Why Did We Watch This?