The 2017 “Sexiest Man Alive” was announced as country singer and NBC’s “The Voice” coach Blake Shelton on Nov. 14. This was an extremely problematic choice, however, considering Shelton’s history of racist, homophobic and sexist comments.
By promoting someone who feels it is justifiable to hurt others through derogatory and demeaning jokes, People Magazine is stating that this type of behavior is acceptable and even rewards it. At this time in particular, when cruelty is abundant in the United States, the last thing the media need to do is endorse hatred.
In one of his most offensive tweets, sent in 2011, Shelton appeared to advocate violence against gay men, tweeting, “Re-writing my fav Shania Twain song ... Any man that tries Touching my behind He’s gonna be a beaten, bleedin’, heaving kind of guy …,” according to The Daily Beast. This is extremely inappropriate and not something a thoughtful individual would put on social media.
Not only has Shelton expressed a multitude of sexist sentiments, he has also been publicly homophobic, according to The Daily Beast. As the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation points out, Shelton is a man with a massive fan base consisting of over 300,000 followers. With such a flawed character winning “Sexiest Man Alive,” this will only serve to send the wrong message to his fans. It is unacceptable for Shelton to support homophobic violence on such a large scale, as it is an unnecessary diffusion of hate.
Shelton has also released plenty of tweets reflecting his racist, islamophobic and sexist opinions, including one where “he begs the person in the next room to ‘learn some English so I would at least know what he’s planning to bomb!!’” and another where he mentions a “sick fantasy” of his about Dakota Fanning, who was 16 at the time, according to Fox News.
While some of Shelton’s smaller, juvenile jokes, such as “Question for my gay followers … Are skittles y’all’s favorite candy?” and “How can I be attracted to lesbians? ... I’m not gay,” may seem harmless, they are far from it.
The problem here is the sheer number of deprecating jokes he has made over the years. Since joining Twitter in 2008, Shelton has made collections of offensive tweets, most of them from 2009 through 2012, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Although there have not been any recent belligerent comments from Shelton, this does not mean he has changed his harmful ways of thinking. All this proves is that he is learning what is permitted and which remarks his followers will condemn. The U.S. should not be honoring someone that thinks this way with any award, even one like the “Sexiest Man Alive.”
Like it or not, celebrities have an immense amount of influence on our personal preferences and beliefs. By Shelton—someone in a position of power—fostering hateful messages, he essentially makes it acceptable, even favorable, for anyone to say and think these things. Making him “Sexiest Man Alive” only gives him more authority with which to spread his harmful viewpoints.
Besides attacking large groups of minorities with hurtful remarks, in 2016 Shelton resorted to personally insulting one fan by labeling her “a little slow,” in response to her calling Shelton out for his racist remarks, as reported by Fox News. Perhaps it is not that Shelton is merely racist, homophobic and sexist, but rather, he is unable to have the empathy required to be a role model and treat other human beings with respect.
Naming Shelton “Sexiest Man Alive” may not seem significant, but in reality, it could have devastating effects. Glorifying someone with no regard for the feelings of others justifies and encourages the inappropriate behavior Shelton has displayed over the years.
We need to stop supporting celebrities and other people in positions of power who hold harmful opinions that foster hate and negativity. In order to shut these people down and hopefully extinguish racism, homophobia and sexism, we have to stop honoring them with awards and titles.