The world we helped Chrissy Teigen make
Teigen was cruel on social media - and we wanted it that way.
Model, cookbook author and all-around famous-for-being-famous person Chrissy Teigen must be wondering where it all went so wrong so fast. One of the most beloved Twitter celebrities became one of the platform’s most hated almost overnight, as Kat Rosenfield explains in The Spectator:
Teigen, a key figure in so many online draggings over the years, should know better. At the height of her influence, she drew applause for her epic clapbacks, her awesome dunks, her ability to make mincemeat of ordinary people with the perfect cutting remark — which she got away with by persuading us that she was really quite ordinary herself, or at least ordinary-adjacent. Although she’d been nominally employed as an entertainer in various capacities, her true power was as a figurehead in a cult of personality, a D-list celebrity perfectly positioned at the nexus of attainable and aspirational. Teigen was glamorous but self-deprecating, brassy yet strategically vulnerable. She was the queen bee of the social web, rich and beautiful but also oddly relatable, like the mega-popular girl in high school who was omg so nice actually?! because she’d let you borrow a pen.
The twist came when it turned out that Teigen’s capacity for meanness had not always been so strategic, so fine-tuned on deserving targets — and that all that epic clapping-back was part of a broader, less attractive tendency to bully others and delight in their suffering. This was something else, not queenly behavior but unprovoked cruelty: telling a teenager to ‘take a dirt na’p” taking swipes at the bodies of pregnant women, piling on poor Lindsay Lohan when she’d already suffered enough. In a more recent screenshot, a then 29-year-old Teigen appeared to tell a stylist who was falsely accused of using a racial slur that he should ‘suffer and die’. Suddenly, the righteous cancellation of Alison Roman didn’t seem like such an untrammeled good anymore.
As a chief architect of the culture that is now tearing her reputation to shreds, Teigen of all people should have known that she was in serious trouble when the tides began to turn. It’s beyond the ordinary irony of the woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party, now sobbing that she never expected leopards to eat her face. Teigen didn’t just vote for this, she created it. They are her leopards. This machine has no ‘redemption’ setting; it’s made for destruction and destruction alone, as we’ve seen over and over.
The door that slams in your face is shut forever; you can’t apologize your way back in.
Those who’ve been through cancellation already know this. For them, salvation is to be found in the population who never asked for an apology in the first place. And for the lucky ones, it’s a living. Louis C.K. can spend the rest of his life packing comedy clubs with his ride-or-die supporters while the permanently aggrieved protest impotently outside. Alison Roman can sell a newsletter to people who always thought that her firing from the New York Times was horrific and undeserved.
But Teigen, well, that’s complicated. Her fanbase loved her because she fed their appetite for destruction. She was the queen of the clapback, and they her devoted subjects — not because she was good and kind, but because she made it cool to be savage. And where Chrissy Teigen seems to still imagine herself as the hero of a classic story about hubris, humiliation and eventually, grace, the snarling of her former fans is more like something out of Game of Thrones. They were loyal. Now they’re starving. This tends not to end well.
It’s hard to muster much sympathy for Teigen. Snarky and mean tweets are one thing, but when you’re sending direct messages to people telling them to kill themselves, that’s not playing to the crowd so much as evidence of psychopathy.
And yet, there’s a part of me that feels like she’s being scapegoated for behaviour in which we all enthusiastically partook. I remember late 2000s/early 2010s online culture well, and pretty much all of us went after marginal pseudo-celebs like Courtney Stodden in deeply personal terms. For even more famous and obviously troubled celebrities like Lohan and Britney Spears, we were even worse.
It seems like the online mob has shifted its focus in the last five or six years, and we no longer make such sport of people in obvious mental distress or drug addiction. Now it’s all about going after people - famous or not - for real or perceived racism, sexism or other -isms and -phobias. And, for others, going after the people going after these people.
I almost fell into this trap myself while writing this post. Rosenfield refers to a recent incident where Teigen allegedly sent a DM telling a fashion designer falsely accused of racism to kill himself.
I had planned to explode in a righteous fury against a mean-spirited “woke” celebrity ready to turn on a friend - without the pretense of hearing his side of the story - in a heartbeat. But now it looks like she’s being framed:
Chrissy Teigen’s team and her husband John Legend have challenged cyberbullying allegations made against her by Project Runway star Michael Costello.
A rep for Teigen told Insider that the alleged direct messages she sent Costello in 2014 are fake, while Legend made the same claim in a Friday tweet.
“Chrissy apologized for her public tweets, but after her apology, Mr Costello fabricated a DM exchange between them,” Legend wrote. “This exchange was made up, completely fake, never happened.”
“Honestly I don’t know why anyone would fake DMs to insert themselves in this narrative, but that’s what happened,” he added. “I encourage everyone who breathlessly spread this lie to keep that same energy when they correct the record.”
Costello said that he had been the victim of a hoax spearheaded by a “former disgruntled employee,” who falsely accused him of saying the “N-word” when referring to a Black designer’s work.
Costello claimed that Teigen sent him private messages over the racism claims, and he posted several which purport to show Teigen saying, “Racist people like you deserve to suffer and die. You might as well be dead. Your career is over, just watch.”
Were the messages really faked? This sounds damning:
Insider’s Kat Tenbarge first reported on the allegedly fake DMs, breaking down why they’re so suspicious.
“In the images Costello posted, the verified checkmark is missing from next to Teigen’s name. Verification was introduced to the platform in late 2014 and Teigen was verified by early 2015, which would seemingly suggest the screenshot was taken in 2014,” she wrote.
“But the messages in the images have purple and blue backgrounds — a design change that wasn’t implemented until February 2020, at which point the “@chrissyteigen” account was verified. The background color and the lack of verification appear to be temporally inconsistent.”
Tenbarge also noted that there is a video chat icon in the screenshots, while the feature was not introduced to Instagram until 2018.
The lesson, as always: social media posts always give you just one side of the story, and there are some really manipulative and dishonest people out there. And it’s going to get even worse as deepfakes become easier to create.
Sometimes I miss Twitter, but I’m trying hard to stay away from it.
We had a Mustang as our second car when I was a kid. But it was no Boss or Mach 1 or Shelby GT350. Heavens, no. It was a 1981 model with a gutless four cylinder engine that would struggle to beat a 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage in a drag race.
For every fast Mustang ever built, there have been several base models barely powerful enough to get out of their own way. And that’s why I just can’t get too worked up about the Mustang Mach E, an electric crossover some car enthusiasts have - to borrow Roger Ebert’s metaphor for the 1998 Godzilla being shown at Cannes - compared to a Black Mass being performed at St. Peter’s Basillica.
Jo Borras, in The Truth About Cars, provides a useful history lesson about the Mustang constantly changing with the times:
…the fun, affordable new Ford Mustang sold like hotcakes when it was first released. But wait a minute. Aren’t “real” Mustangs supposed to be real burly, macho deals with V8s and drag radials and manual transmissions? Who’s that woman dressed like Jackie O. over there?
Did you forget that this generation of Mustang was marketed primarily to women? More specifically, secretaries?
It’s true. Ford’s base-model Mustang — the one that sold in big numbers and made up the huge majority of Mustang sales — was proudly referred to as “a secretary’s car” for years. Remember that for later (the list of keywords is now “reported”, and “women”).
Where were we? Right. The “real” Mustang. So, OK, there are a few phony styling elements like the side vents that don’t vent and the more squared-off nose makes sense as a cost-cutting change, but now we’re getting somewhere. This is real, “real Mustang” stuff, right? This is the high watermark, “pony car” touchpoint that Chevy, Pontiac, Plymouth — heck, even the Mitsubishi Starion were trying to reach. This is where Mustang magic was born, and the car was such a huge hit that Ford would never, ever dare to compromise … for about five years
That’s right, gang. In about the time it takes Toyota to visually refresh a Highlander, Ford’s Mustang sales had dipped so badly that Ford decided to pivot. The car was, mechanically, pretty much the same in 1971 as it had been in the years before, but the American public was demanding bigger, longer, more luxurious rides.
It even came with a vinyl roof.
The first all-electric Mustang, the Mustang Mach-E GT, will reportedly accelerate from 0-60 mph in under four seconds, which would place it very near the top of the performance pecking order as far as Mustangs go, but it does the job quietly. Capably. Responsibly, even.
The Mustang Mach-E has some performance chops, then — but what about its styling? At 186”, it’s actually a few inches shorter than the V8 Mustang coupe. And, with a base price of $42,895, this Mustang it’s just as affordable as ever, costing thousands less than the average new car transaction price after EV rebates and incentives.
So, the new Mach-E is fast, middle-of-the-road affordable, and even has some fake cooling features on it (really, Ford, it didn’t need a black plastic “grille”, did it?).
More importantly, the Mustang Mach-E is a car that has been reimagined and repackaged for its time. When the original, hardcore Mustang I sportscar concept wasn’t right, it changed and became a softer, more practical, but still sporty-looking car that women could enjoy driving to work in every day. When the company decided it wanted to go after male dollars, the hood became longer and the engine got louder, and a few Mach-I and Boss sticker kits were even tossed on a small percentage of those cars to help make that true. As the oil crisis loomed large in the car-buying public’s memory, the Mustang changed again.
That’s what the Mustang is and does. It changes with the times, and it always has. This new Mach-E is absolutely no exception to the rules that Ford has played by with Mustang for over 50years. Far from a revolutionary product, it is exactly the Ford Mustang you should have seen coming if you’ve been paying attention at all. Just, you know, watch out for those “reported” range figures when you hit the road.
And, the icing on the cake? My wife wants one.
This is a real Mustang, boys. The realest. A true continuation of nearly 60years of Ford tradition — and if you don’t like it, just wait for the next one. Without a doubt, Ford will swing the Mustang back your way again in just a few years.
I was going to make a snarky comment here about the Mustang II, but when I really thought about it, I decided that much-maligned mini-Mustang should be treated like important historical figures: a product of its time.
The mid-seventies were a horrendous, depressing time for car enthusiasts, with beloved performance cars being neutered by safety and emissions regulations, or cancelled outright. Some of the Mustang’s competitors, like the AMC Javelin and Dodge Challenger, were axed. The Camaro/Firebird chugged along, but with engines detuned to improve fuel economy. The most powerful Camaro in 1977 made 170 horsepower, less than a four-cylinder Hyundai Sonata.
It’s a wonder the Bandit was able to stay ahead of Sherriff Buford T. Justice, except that his Pontiac LeMans was pretty sluggish in its own right.
Ford read the market perfectly with the Mustang II, and while Mustang enthusiasts cringed, the company sold over a million of them between 1974 and 1978. By the end of the decade, with sales slipping, they radically reinvented the car again with the larger Fox-body version, which hung around for many years.
They’re doing the same thing again with the Mach E, which brings this storied brand into the electric era - and is faster and more powerful than most of the gas-powered Mustangs ever built. If you’d rather have no Mustang at all instead of an electric crossover one, that’s on you. As for me, I want one.
“Takes one to know one” department:
I've never twittered or facebooked or instagrammed in my life and I never intend to. I thought at their inception and still think they are puerile abominations.
Since I had no hand in making that online social media world I can enjoy the satisfaction of every Luddite in being able to say "I told you so".