Society loves to put their celebrities up on gleaming pedestals and then watch them fall. The reasons are as wide and varied as the star-studded subjects themselves. A famous person does or says something displeasing, disappointing, disgusting, or disingenuous and, as a result, they are fiercely judged in the Supreme Court of Public Opinion, which is pretty much the internet. You and I are kind of like Judge Dredd. We get to be judge, jury, and executioner when we give opinions because of fundamental disagreement, angry disapproval, or a little bit of schadenfreude. Celebrities have been controversial, hated, shocking, and simply disliked since there have been famous people, basically. With few personal opinions and a focus on the facts, here are a few of the celebrities who are controversial enough to keep us talking. Tell me if you think they deserve the hate.
Charlie Sheen wasn't the inspiration for this idea, but as I write this, he happens to be at the forefront of a new controversy in a long line of them. Drugs, tempestuous relationships, and volatile behavior have followed the actor for much of his career, yet he tends to emerge from the ashes enough to make you wonder if he does indeed have tiger blood. Charlie is a talented actor with a lot of problems, the most recent of which is an HIV-positive diagnosis that the actor has known about for several years. Accounts vary as to whether or not he told all of his sexual partners and public opinion is split – but not evenly, I don't believe. There are lots of people saying he deserved it, people saying his partners should have known the risk anyway, people who don't believe he'd knowingly put anyone at risk, and plenty of variations on those themes.
What's your opinion? Does Charlie deserve the hate?
First of all, I have to apologize for the number of Kardashian and Jenner family members who will appear on this list. Many of them are consistently controversial, plus they're divisive for such an array of reasons that it would take far too long to list them together. So let's begin with Kim, whose every move is so thoroughly documented that even her Instagram pictures spur debate. Whenever a new story appears, heralding another appearance from the E! Fairy, the same arguments get trotted out in comment sections all over the internet. Old controversies are used to prove new accusations. Her sex tape is mentioned at least 84,000 times. Her business savvy is also mentioned, but that tends to depend on what kind of new Awful Thing she's done.
Deserving or not, what do you say?
Justin's been divisive since he got famous, basically, but you have to admit that he does get into a lot of messes. Like, a lot. From his Anne Frank faux pas and racist jokes to his sometimes bizarre, sometimes disrespectful behavior in other countries, he just keeps doing things he maybe shouldn't do. Afterward, he always tries very hard to clean up his image and make amends. Maybe it's always a publicity stunt, maybe he's genuine every time. Maybe his hair is naturally white-blonde, maybe it's Maybelline. Full-frontal nude pictures of him recently leaked and he handled that pretty well, but at the same times he keeps walking offstage at his concerts and demanding things via Snapchat, so who knows?
Are you salty enough to sip on haterade or nah?
Debates about Marilyn Monroe still rage, ranging from arguments about her personal life and her sexuality to her death and even her size. I have to step into the opinion box, however, to say that Norma Jean marketed herself to be a divisive figure. Marilyn's persona as the fluffy blonde was just that and she was smart, not in the least because she knew that causing debates among people who disapproved of her still got them talking and intrigued. She's been called both a whore and a madonna, a femme fatale and a scared little girl, a shameless slut and a wounded woman, derided and celebrated more than fifty years after her death.
What are your thoughts on Marilyn's controversial status?
Not everyone will consider Paul Reubens a relevant celeb, but I await the resurrection of Pee-Wee Herman with great enthusiasm and I'm writing this, so there you go. Besides, people still mistakenly believe that Paul Reubens was caught jacking off to child pornography. False. In 1991, when “Pee-Wee's Playhouse” was still popular Saturday Morning fare, Reubens got caught jacking it to adult pornography at a theatre specializing in pornography. In short, Paul was caught playing with his pee-wee in public, but it was a victimless crime. Fast-forward eleven years, however, and the misconception makes more sense. In 2002, Reubens was again arrested when authorities discovered his vintage porn collection and accused him of having child pornography, which was untrue. Paul Reubens definitely likes pornography, but he is not a kiddie show pedophile.
Is masturbation worthy of a controversy? (I think I outed myself as being in the “no” camp, by the way.)
Most of Gwyneth Paltrow's controversies aren't serious, and outside of the internet, they don't really qualify as controversial. Provocative, maybe, but it's hard to tell whether it's a trait or an act. Every now and then, however, she'll say something in response to the attention she attracts that boggles the mind. Her opinions about stay-at-home mothers and mothers who work outside the home are incredibly divisive, and she once described online comments – which can admittedly be quite hateful, and all too often obscene or violent – as dehumanizing and that is certainly true. She continued by saying, “It's almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it.” Next to comments like these, her more frequent “controversies,” such as slightly pretentious life advice, are small potatoes indeed.
Or is she probably just provocative and good at creating unbelievable blurbs?
Tom Cruise is no longer known solely for his onscreen charisma and boyish good looks. A string of controversies have followed the actor ever since the Couch Incident and his religion is increasingly at the heart of them. From patronizing rants to rumors that he's auditioning girlfriends, Tom's movies aren't often the topic of conversation anymore. Well, I take that back – for every Knight and Day, there's a Mission: Impossible sequel. Still, Leah Remini's recent book and her open honesty since leaving Scientology have put him in the limelight for reasons that have nothing to do with the box office.
Nobody has to answer any question about Tom Cruise or Scientology. (You're welcome, stalkers. I hear they're kind of litigious.)
While former controversial stars have faded from the public eye or revamped their image enough to please the high court of public opinion – Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes, and even Lindsay Lohan come to mind – Miley isn't there yet. The difference is that she simply doesn't care. Her true evolution from Hannah Montana to Miley Cyrus hasn't pleased everyone, and those who dislike the sharp departure from her Disney days seem to take the most pleasure in discussing her perceived transgressions, such as her VMAs performance (still) and her more recent hosting duties, especially given her live feud with another controversy-prone star on this list.
Is Miley just being Miley or does she deserve the controversial stamp?
Concerning things pop up about Sean Penn pretty consistently. Some of them never make it past the rumor stage while some are easily proven and range from awful to horrifying. In the way of many actors before him, he's charismatic and almost always irresistible onscreen, but the image doesn't quite translate off-screen. He has a history of violence ranging from his domestic abuse of Madonna to punching paparazzi, but his questionable actions extend to his charity work (see: Haiti). His temper and his relationship drama often take center stage ahead of his acting abilities, with rumors surrounding his relationships with both Robin Wright and Charlize Theron. Jewel speaks pretty highly of him, but there's even something a little off about the cute courting anecdote she shared in her book. Recent appearances at some of Madonna's shows have the gossip rags talking again.
Is Sean Penn's reputation justified or unfair, do you think?
Nicki's outspoken nature, her firm opinions, her position as a female rapper, and even her body make her a magnet for controversy. When she says something people don't like, they typically attack all angles, so that her opinion on the representation of people of color, women of different sizes, and general diversity at award shows became about her talent, her butt, her lips, her music videos, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and the question of the year (WHAT'S GOOD, Y'ALL?) – about everything except the subject, basically.
But is she controversial or simply outspoken? Does she deserve the rep?
Whether he's comparing himself to Jesus or interrupting acceptance speeches, Kanye is not known as a shrinking violet. His opinions, attitudes, and behaviors are pompous, arrogant, sometimes tone deaf, and often avant-garde. Fans and critics alike wonder how mingling with his in-laws may affect his music, but even people who don't like rap or his flavor of it are generally willing to admit that he's a musical genius. Although he seems to have simmered a little since becoming a family man and adoring father, every so often he'll say or do something that brings up all his past transgressions. These days, Kanye even gets in the news when he smiles, even though everyone constantly complains about his angry resting face.
Worth it or nah?
Iggy's been relatively quiet since her February announcement to take a break from social media. Probably a good idea, although Erykah Badu's recent burn brought her back for a second, so anything's possible. I actually have an opinion on Iggy that's productive (perhaps) but not nice (at all), so let's just say that she does not take constructive criticism very well, nor does she understand why other white rappers do not get the same hate she gets. She has been known to say some viciously racist and homophobic things as herself rather than as a performer or stage persona, though people can certainly always learn better, but she also disrespects older, wiser voices when they don't agree with her, and that's a shame – there were lessons to be learned from Q-Tip's famous, very eloquent essay on the history of hip-hop, and even from the way Snoop, Eminem, and famous frenemy Azealia Banks dissed her.
Your opinion, please?
I'm convinced many of Marilyn Manson's controversies are calculated and planned down to the tiniest detail. It makes him a great showman, but when you don't have the output to back up public interest, not even coyly claiming to have enjoyed sexual relations with one of the hottest men in the world will keep people talking for long. Still, throughout his career, Marilyn Manson has been an expert at appealing to current fans and intriguing his haters. He loves getting the public frothy. No one's going to be canceling his concerts today, probably, but he still gets in the news enough to make people Google his older stories and maybe even his music.
Is he still really controversial or is it just a show?
Azealia Banks has all the makings of a hip-hop icon, but these days she's more known for her controversial statements. Twitter is her favorite medium, although she's been known to air her grievances publicly as well – such as on an airplane. She tends to go in hardest against the LGBTQIA community, likely because they form a large part of her fanbase. After, for example, comparing the LGBTQIA community to the Ku Klux Klan, she typically claims that her statements are not homophobic because she is bisexual and has close family and friends who are gay, transgender, lesbian, and so on. In addition to alienating the fans who do remember how talented she is as well as potential new listeners, Azealia is known for having beefs with a variety of other artists. As mentioned, she and Iggy Azalea just despise each other, but she's also had things to say about T.I., Lorde, and Kanye West.
Is Azealia courting controversy or is she unfairly targeted?
Bill Cosby did not become truly controversial until very late in life. Whispers of controversy followed him as his career skyrocketed, but nothing ever stuck. Many people reading about him in the news now grew up watching him on television, in the movies, or perhaps right in their hometowns. The PG humor displayed in his comedy shows was never more than slightly risque, peppered with the subtle sexual opinions, slight misogyny, and the cheeky sexism of the times. After all, he slammed Eddie Murphy for being filthy. “Little Bill” and “The Electric Company” appealed to kids, “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” taught teens lessons, and the whole family loved “The Cosby Show,” right down to having a favorite kid. Reconciling all of that with the repeated accusations of rape, sexual assault, and horrible violations that are coming to light for the first time or simply getting attention for the first time – it's difficult, and it's hard to know how things will play out. People's opinions vary and, once again, some of them get extremely violent, hateful, and derogatory.
Do you have an opinion on the ongoing Cosby controversy?
Half of the world hates Anne Hathaway, it seems like. Her hate train reached full speed a few years ago, and up to that point society's opinion was pretty equally balanced and much more subdued. I think the rising star of her controversy had more to do with over-saturation, and I say this as someone who enjoys her movies more than her interviews, if you get what I mean. Add to that a perfection that comes off as unbelievable at best and insincere at worst, and you have a recipe for Hatha-hate. See, she never did anything really wrong, except some humble-bragging and the rumors of diva behavior. Still, even after going away for a while and popping up again, all people wanted to talk about was how she handled her one-sided hate-troversy.
Is she worthy of all the hate, especially at that level?
It's impossible to mention a member of the Kardashian or Jenner families without talking about Caitlyn. She may be the most controversial celebrity of the moment, period. At first, news and evidence of her transition divided the world into two simple camps: for and against. There were and are people who continue to call her “Bruce” and refer to her as “he/him/his,” and there were and are people who call her Caitlyn and refer to her using “she/her/hers.” Now people are stepping up to disagree with Caitlyn's opinions, irrespective of gender. Her opinions about the hardest part of being a woman and her personal politics have caught lots of attention recently, and as I write this, the big story involves a gentleman returning his late wife's Woman of the Year award to Glamour due to Caitlyn receiving Glamour's Transgender Champion award. She won alongside the survivors of the Charleston shooting, Cecile Richards, Victoria Beckham, and Reese Witherspoon, among others. The car accident in which Caitlyn was involved, which took a woman's life, also colors people's opinions.
What's your opinion, though?
Kris Jenner's behavior is always in the spotlight. That's the way she likes it. Her controversies range from rumors of affairs and lies told about Khloe's father to accusations of leaking her daughter's sex tape and exploiting her children. She says inappropriate things, releases inappropriate sound bites, and it's likely that she knows exactly what she's doing at any given time. Whether she's announcing that she wants to change her name back to “Kardashian” or allegedly saying nasty things about ex Caitlyn, controversy follows her at every turn, but it seems like that's all part of the plan.
Does Kris loathe or love her reputation, do you think?
Definitely do give your opinions on the controversy rating you'd give these particular celebrities, and if I've missed one, please introduce your pick! Just remember – debate, don't hate!
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