Since I started compiling Outrage Watch — HitFix's “(almost) daily rundown of all the thing folks are peeved about in entertainment” — I've never been faced with a shortage of things to write about. There's a lot of anger out there! At times so much that it can feel overwhelming. Other times, I just have to laugh at the sheer inanity of the things people manage to work themselves up over.
Of the stories I highlight, I would say a good 75 percent represent examples of righteous outrage — i.e. scorn directed at legitimate targets. And the other 25? The phrase “pick your battles” comes to mind here, and indeed, sometimes it seems the level of anger is blown out of all proportion to the target in question.
As we look back on the winter of 2015, below you can find my roundup of 13 of the wackiest, most overblown controversies of the year so far.
Eva Mendes chided for hating sweatpants (March 19)
The controversy: Eva took some heat after telling Extra that women wearing sweatpants around the house is the “number one cause of divorce in America.”
Sample outrage: “I thought the days when moms felt the pressure to look as perfect as Betty Draper from 'Mad Men' each morning just might be behind us.” – Erica Pearson, New York Daily News
Followup: Eva swears she was just joking when she made the comment — “I thought I was being funny! I”m trying to sell dresses [from my fashion line]!”, she told Yahoo! — and Ryan Gosling later jumped in to defend his girlfriend on Twitter: “Obviously sweatpants thing was a joke. Wearing them now. That's right, tweeting in sweatpants. Rats! Said too much! You win again Twitter.”
Was any of the outrage warranted? In the sense that women have historically been pressured to keep their husbands/boyfriends from straying by remaining physically desirable, I can understand where the anger is coming from. That said, the angry responses to Mendes' offhanded comment felt a little outsized in relation to what she actually said.
“Frozen” demeans men, apparently (Feb. 4)
The controversy: “Fox and Friends” co-host Steve Doocy and “Concerned Women of America” CEO Penny Nance charged the Disney blockbuster with catering in misandry.
Sample outrage: According to the conservative duo, “Frozen” is guilty of the following: “Empowering girls by turning our men into fools and villains” (Doocy) and sending the message that “men are superfluous, that they're stupid, that they're in the way, and if they contribute anything to family it's a paycheck.” (Nance)
Followup: To my knowledge, neither Doocy nor Nance have responded to claims that they're both totally ridiculous.
Was any of the outrage warranted? Is this a real question?
Rap music is accused of causing racism (March 11)
The controversy: During a discussion about the University of Oklahoma fraternity that was caught on tape making racist chants — and rapper Waka Flocka Flame's decision to drop out of performing for the group in light of the controversy — “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and conservative pundit Bill Kristol implied that Waka (and by extension, other rappers) share some responsibility for making white people say terrible bigoted things because they use the “n-word” in their lyrics.
Sample outrage: “Popular culture becomes a cesspool, a lot corporations profit off of it, and then people are surprised that some drunk 19-year-old kids repeat what they”ve been hearing.” – Bill Kristol
Followup: “This isn”t about my rap music. I feel like they”re running away from what we”re talking about,” Flame responded generally to the backlash over his decision. Brzenzinski later walked back her comments during an appearance on MSNBC's “The Cycle,” telling host Al Sharpton: “There is no moral equivalency between any lyrics and what happened on that bus.”
Was any of the outrage warranted? While I'm a firm believer that irresponsible media representations can have a damaging effect on the culture, the argument that rap music contributes to racial hatred is insane.
“X Factor New Zealand” judges bully a contestant (March 16)
The controversy: “X Factor New Zealand” judge Willy Moon and wife/singer Natalia Kills blasted contestant Joe Irvine in brutal fashion for supposedly ripping off Moon's style.
Sample outrage: “You're a laughing stock, it's cheesy, it's disgusting, I personally found it absolutely artistically atrocious.” – Natalia Kills
Followup: Moon and Kills were fired from the show over their inflammatory comments due to public pressure as well as complaints from sponsors and fellow judges. As of this writing they haven't apologized.
Was any of the outrage warranted? Only if you think dressing similarly to another performer makes a person worthy of horrendous televised ridicule.
William Shatner misses Leonard Nimoy's funeral, gets bashed (March 2)
The controversy: After Shatner tweeted that he “felt awful” about missing Nimoy's funeral, some fans were quick to slam him for…upholding a commitment to appear at a charity function.
Sample outrage: “Perhaps you should tell twitter why you can't make it to Mr. Nimoy's memorial, since he was 'like a brother' to you.” – Twitter user @HarryGato
Followup: “I chose to honor a commitment I made months ago to appear at a charitable fundraiser. A lot of money was raised. So here I am; tell me off,” Shatner tweeted in response to haters and, especially, an inflammatory New York Daily News headline. He later celebrated his late co-star by hosting a Q&A about Nimoy with fans on Twitter.
Was any of the outrage warranted? One thing fans forget is that two actors aren't necessarily great friends just because they were on a TV show together. Also, yes, let's please pile on a person for keeping their commitments to a charity.
– New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) March 1, 2015
The Academy accused of being un-American for “snubbing” “American Sniper” (Feb. 23)
Controversy: “American Sniper” took home only one Oscar out of a total of six nominations, causing conservatives to level claims of so-called “liberal bias” at the Academy.
Sample outrage: “AMERICAN Sniper snubbed by liberal hwood Predictable. #CluelessOscars” – Sean Hannity
Followup: Jon Stewart mocked this pretty well.
Was any of the outrage warranted? Six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor. Six! That's not a snub. Not to mention, this is after the film was legitimately snubbed by the Golden Globes and the majority of critics' associations. If anything, these critics should be thanking the Academy for recognizing a film that didn't get a lot of accolades elsewhere.
Beyonce revealed to have imperfections, Beygency ensues (Feb. 18)
Controversy: After fansite Beyonce World published a number of unretouched photos form the megastar's 2013 L'Oreal photoshoot, her fans' heads collectively exploded.
Sample outrage: “I seriously wanna bash the person that photoshopped those pics fucking face in! Like it's to the point where enough is enough!” – Twitter user @getyolife
Followup: “Due to the disdain of the BeyHive, we have removed the photos,” Beyonce World posted later. “We don't want to cause any drama, nor do we wish to start fan wars. Some of the things we have seen posted were just horrible, and we don't want any parts of it. We were just posting the photos to share the fact that our queen is naturally beautiful, at the same time she is just a regular woman.”
Was any of the outrage warranted? I doubt Beyonce World intended any harm by publishing the photos, and truthfully she looked pretty great. Also: aren't Beyonce's fans glad to know that she looks like a human being?
Jeremy Clarkson slams the BBC for “Top Gear” firing (March 20)
Controversy: The “Top Gear” host punched a producer because there wasn't any hot food on set and then…got mad at the BBC for not renewing his contract.
Sample outrage: “The BBC's fucked themselves…It was a great show and they've fucked it up.”
Followup: Clarkson's firing was made official the following week.
Was any of the outrage warranted? Being fired is very traumatic, and sometimes we say things we don't mean. On the other hand, THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ASSAULT PEOPLE AT WORK JEREMY.
Sarah Silverman and T-Mobile accused of hating men (Feb. 2)
Controversy: Silverman's T-Mobile ad included a joke in which the comedian mutters “Sorry, it's a boy” before handing a newborn over to its mother, resulting in charges of — wait for it! — “misandry.”
Sample outrage: “'Sorry it's a boy' this is why men punch you in the face in movies, @SarahKSilverman #SuperBowI,” – Twitter user @SooperMexican.
Followup: To my knowledge, neither Silverman nor T-Mobile responded to the uproar.
Was any of the outrage warranted? There's a reason the word “misandry” looks so unusual to us. Because it is unusual. The T-Mobile ad is a satirical response to misogyny, which is what people really need to be worried about.
Kanye West's Glastonbury credentials questioned (March 17)
Controversy: After Kanye West was was announced as a headliner at the U.K.'s Glastonbury Music Festival, a fan protested the decision by posting a petition stating that a “rock band” should be booked in his place. It's since been signed by over 130,000 people.
Sample outrage: “Let”s prevent this musical injustice now!”
Followup: Kanye's still coming!
Was any of the outrage warranted? Not liking Kanye West is certainly understandable, but starting a petition to keep one of the true musical visionaries of our age out of a music festival because he's not “rock” enough is ridiculous.
Jeep is un-American for putting the Great Wall of China in a commercial (Feb. 2)
Controversy: The American automaker incited anger online when their “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl ad featured such unpatriotic landmarks as the Great Wall of China.
Sample outrage: “What kind of globalist bullshit is this?”
Followup: Jeep has not, to my knowledge, responded to these very non-petty concerns.
Was any of the outrage warranted? If these armchair critics are serious about their patriotism, maybe they should try not buying any products made in a foreign country ever again. And then see how that works out.
ABC Family takes heat over same-sex kiss (March 5)
Controversy: After featuring the youngest same-sex kiss in TV history on drama series “The Fosters,” the network received a round of complaints from conservatives who were shocked by the episode.
Sample outrage: “Basic cable now peddling in gay kiddie porn.” – Ann Barnhardt
Followup: “I'm so proud that we put that kiss on the air. It's so simple and true and lovely and I'm so grateful to ABC Family for recognizing that,” co-creator/executive producer told Out magazine in a recent interview.
Was any of the outrage warranted? So I guess “The Wonder Years” was kiddie porn too, then?
Sean Penn makes green card joke at Oscars, Twitter piles on (Feb. 23)
Controversy: Penn's joke while presenting the Best Director Oscar to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?”) stirred the ire of a number of users on Twitter.
Sample outrage: “Sorry. Blacked out for a minute there when Sean Penn hit us with that racist bomb.” – Twitter user @bethorne
Followup: When confronted with the controversy backstage, Inarritu told the press corps he took no personal offense at the joke. Penn later poo-poohed the joke during an appearance on “Conan”. Said the actor sarcastically: “It gave them something to do.”
Was any of the outrage warranted? When people criticize “knee-jerk liberalism,” this is what they're talking about.