By Grace Hamilton, Staff Writer
The problem goes beyond Matty Healy.
If you’ve been living under a rock as of late, or more likely, you’re not on that side of TikTok – lucky you – you may have missed the latest controversy to hit a mediocre white man, and the apoplectic response of his fanbase to the backlash that followed.
To summarize: Matty Healy, the frontman of The 1975 – which is currently touring their most recent album Being Funny in a Foreign Language – recently appeared on The Adam Friedland Show, a podcast hosted by the eponymous comedian. In the episode, Healy, Friedland and co-host Nick Mullen made jokes about a wide range of topics and rightfully received criticism for the direction of those jokes.
Healy talked about DMing American rapper Ice Spice – of Dominican and Nigerian descent – which led to the three men pondering her ethnicity and suggesting that she was Inuit, then Chinese, then Hawaiian.
In case you were wondering – yes, they did mock Inuit, Chinese and Hawaiian accents.
While it may seem an impossible act to follow, they did, with impressions of a Japanese person working in a concentration camp. To ensure they mocked as many ethnicities and languages as possible, they moved on to Scots – recognized as an indigenous language of Scotland. One of the hosts said, “Scots is its own language which is like [r-slur] English.”
Next we have the obligatory misogynistic remarks, such as Healy telling Friedland he would “f*ck” Friedland’s sister because “she’s hot.” They went on to say that women’s menstrual cycles are controlled by the moon, with Friedland saying “It’s so funny that women get f*cked up by the moon. Meanwhile, we went there – men!” Healy helpfully chimed in, “F*cking too right!”
Outside of his appearance on the podcast, Healy has also started a new bit at his gigs where he begins to say something along the lines of “I don’t think it’s racist to say…” before he is cut off by his band members playing the next song.
And while singing the lines “Thank you, Kanye, very cool,” which appear in “Love It If We Made It,” Healy marched in place while doing the Nazi salute.
Thank you, Matty, very cool.
Forgive me if I don’t find the “bit” funny.
But that’s the defense Healy’s longtime fans are using. “It’s a bit!” “It’s satire!” “They try to cancel him all the time!” “He’s always been like this!”
These young girls, so quick to cancel a Black man – Kanye – when he starts to spew misogynistic and antisemitic vitriol, are all too eager to defend their favorite white boy when he does the same, arguably without the defense of a psychotic break to back him up.
And if your best defense for an asshole is “he’s always been an asshole”, then reevaluate yourself, the people in your life, the people you follow and the things you let slide for the sake of the bit, or for the sake of another album or another gig where your artist feels himself up on stage and maybe chooses you to make out with.
But don’t worry, I guess – it’s always been part of the bit.
I can’t help but wonder if this is the excuse we use now for white men getting too comfortable joking about marginalized or oppressed groups. How long can it continue before it’s no longer “part of the bit” and really just a man comfortably expressing his problematic views with no backlash?
We’ve all been around the group of boys who tell the girls in the group to make them a sandwich, do their laundry or that they don’t deserve to vote. But it’s a joke! It’s part of the bit! It’s satire, and it’s never been serious because he’s just incredibly self-aware!
Here’s the thing about the satire defense – three white men punching down at marginalized groups/minorities is not “satire” – it’s privilege at its best, misogyny and racism at its worst.
Matty Healy is a white, non-Jewish man, and the bit isn’t funny anymore – it actually never was.
Attacking and mocking marginalized groups that are often the target of hate is not satire. It’s just a continuation of that hatred. Context or no context, Matty Healy did a Nazi salute at a time when antisemitism is on the rise. 2021 – barely two years ago – marked the highest year on record of harassment and violence against Jewish people, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Fandom can be dangerous, and the white men we go to desperate lengths to defend are often not worth the breath wasted. I’m not calling for anyone to cancel Matty Healy – I doubt it’s that productive to try. But I implore his fans to stop with the desperate defense. Healy is not some magical being gifted with more self-awareness than anyone else alive. I think he’s a 33-year-old white, male, successful artist who has been taught by his fans that he can get away with almost anything.
I think it’s time he, and the men like him, learn a different lesson.