As trolls get more toxic, celebs fight back

Social media bullies need almost no reason to unleash themselves on B-town celebs. While this was an emerging trend before the pandemic, it has got much worse as 2020 winds down

“I’m lucky I have an amazing job that brings me to places like these. Not everyone is as lucky, and it can get frustrating being penned in a small apartment in the big city. Knowing that the negativity comes from there, I can be forgiving.” These words were, recently, chosen by actor Saif Ali Khan to shut trolls.

Recently, a video of Kareena and Taimur taking pottery classes at Dharamshala (where Saif is shooting for a film) went viral. And no sooner, some netizens slammed the duo for indulging in such luxuries amid a global pandemic. That’s when Saif chose to give a befitting reply to the social media bullies.

This is just one of many such incidents where Bollywood celebrities were attacked on social media – pandemic or no pandemic. It’s difficult to point out exactly when this toxic trend of trolling began. But one thing is definite –  celebrities, being public figures, are often easy targets for such trolls.

The ‘troll army’ needs almost no reason to unleash themselves on these B-town celebs. We all remember how Alia Bhatt was mercilessly trolled after her infamous goof-up at Koffee with Karan (for the uninitiated, she got India’s President’s name wrong). A newbie back then, the actor was dumb shamed and made fun of – until she decided to own it up like a boss and made a hilarious AIB video taking the jokes on her with a pinch of salt.

That was 2013, but nothing seems to have changed in the last seven years. Rather, the trolls have intensified manifold and the bullies have turned ruthless. This year, June, when the news of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death came out, soon enough the media linked it to the nepotism debate (implying that Rajput became a victim of ‘nepotism gang’). And this opened the floodgates for bullies to attack “nepo kids” (the term they used for celebs from film families).

Karan Johar, Sonam Kapoor, Jhanvi Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha, among many, were called out and went so far as to ask for boycott of their films, which started trending on social media. While Sonam lashed out boldly to shut the trolls, Sonakshi Sinha (and few other actors) took a break from Twitter amid the intensifying negativity.

Sometimes, this trolling does not even stem from any particular angst or reason. Commenting on a female actor’s body, dress, passing sexually offensive remarks or outright slut-shaming are also common, unfortunately. For instance recently, actor Tamannaah was body shamed as she posted a photo after recovering from Covid. “How insensitive can people around us be?” she shared while speaking on this topic to a news website.

Commenting or not commenting on a burning issue can also bring the worst of trolls. Recently, when veteran actor Dharmendra shared his concerns regarding the ongoing farmers’ protest, he had to delete his post in a few hours. And even that irked some of his ‘well-wishers’ as they wondered what could be the reason or ‘agenda’ behind this deletion.

Comedian Kapil Sharma also voiced his opinion on the same topic when twitterati trolled him, commenting: “Keep quiet and do comedy, don’t try to do politics, don’t try to be more farmer-friendly. Focus on the work you do.”

Some might be of the view that celebrities – being in the spotlight – are likely to receive such brickbats and blows. The idea is that it’s a price they need to pay for being famous! Actor Neha Bhasin slammed this view when talking to a news website. “Trolling is not normal. It should not be brushed aside as a price that a celebrity has to pay for being a public figure. Why should a celebrity do that? Our work is for public scrutiny, not us. The whole idea of being accessible to fans has backfired on celebrities. People have forgotten that like them, we, too, have feelings and that harsh words have an impact. Mass bullying cannot be fought because cyber laws in India, I am told, are still not firm and stringent.” Also, owing to the pandemic and the consequent lockdown where netizens have more time on their hands, these trolls have definitely taken a much uglier avatar.  Celebs are trolled for almost everything they do.

“I can’t understand how people can say bad things to others without even knowing them. Social media, no doubt, has become a toxic place. Lockdown has made so many people toxic. I have seen a lot of people passing horrible comments,” said Lipstick Under My Burkha actor Aahana Kumra to a news website.

While many panels, debates and discussions have already taken place on ways or solutions to curb such trolling on celeb pages – the only way out seems to just give a deaf ear to these bullies. Like actor Ananya Panday (who is one of the most trolled B-town celebs) rightly said recently in an interview, “When it comes to trolling, now I am just like anything I do or wear, I am going to get trolled anyway. So it’s fine, as long as I am happy and comfortable. I have made it to Diet Sabya and I have been questioned on what I am wearing but that is something that I don’t actually obsess over or anything. As long as I am happy and I get good pictures to put on my Instagram, I am fine.”

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