Just over a month ago, TMZ announced that pop sensation Demi Lovato had overdosed and was tragically rushed to hospital. This happened only one month after Lovato released the heart-wrenching track “Sober”, in which she apologizes to her parents and fans for breaking her sobriety. Unaware if she was alive or not, social media, (especially Twitter), rushed to console the star, pouring out love and support for her and her loved ones. However, as more stories, false stories included were spread around, social media quickly went from love and respect to disgust and made Demi a topic of click bait and cheap banter. What went from Demi struggling with an illness and addiction quickly transformed into her portrayal as a “junkie” and “party animal out of control”. Add the false perpetrator story of Demi overdosing on heroin, as suggested by TMZ’s original article, Demi was no longer a human suffering with mental illness but was just another “waste of space” who deserved to overdose and die.
Similarly, less than 72 hours ago, rapper Mac Miller was tragically found dead following an apparent drug overdose. Like Demi, Miller had been open about his struggles in the past and Twitter was quick to send love and prayers to him and his loved ones. A “talent gone too soon”, Twitter trolls were quick to bring Demi back into the forefront, wishing it was her that had died and not him. So whilst very similar things had happened to two similar struggling humans, Mac was mainly portrayed as a saint and Demi a junkie who actively wanted to overdose.
Mac Miller dead because of an overdose and it’s sad yes and he deserves sympathy but when Demi Lovato overdosed y’all made fun of her for it and sad that it’s her fault
— kayli ⁶ (@Kayli_Kat41) September 7, 2018
However, it wasn’t all kind words and heartwarming messages for everyone surrounding Mac Miller’s death. Enter Ariana Grande. Mac Miller’s ex of over 2 years, was quickly blamed and positioned at the forefront of his overdose. If she hadn’t have broken up with him (which was due to his addiction) and if she didn’t parade her new engagement with Pete Davidson merely two months after breaking up with Mac, he would most definitely still be here today and wouldn’t have been driven to overdose, right?
Not only did Ariana’s entrance on social media reduce his legacy to be that of a once-boyfriend to a popular singer, her Instagram comments and Twitter mentions became filled with “gendered slurs and barbarous claims that she murdered him“.
This brings the controversial stereotype that women should remain within the maternal role and have it all together 24/7 into conversation. It became clear that by immediately blaming Ariana for his death, we took away the issue of addiction and the severity of living with a mental illness and instead focused a critique on how women should evolve and live within society. Demi overdoses and it’s her own fault because she’s a grown woman and should be in control. Mac overdoses and it’s Ariana’s fault because she left him and didn’t care enough for him.
You know, I didn’t see ANYBODY blaming William Valderrama when Demi Lovato overdosed, but when Mac Miller overdosed, everybody is attacking Ariana Grande? What kind of backwards sexist bullshit is this?
— Allie Baba (@NsbSo) September 9, 2018
Grande is not the first woman to carry the weight of a romantic partner’s demons and Demi is not the first woman to carry the weight of messing up in a world where it’s not acceptable for women to break down. Especially where fame is involved, the gossipy headlines about betrayal to either society (Demi actively speaking up about mental health but not being able to stick to it) or each other (Grande leaving a toxic relationship) seem like a more tangible cause for tragedy than the reality that addiction is a disease, a mental illness. Life as an addict can be extremely difficult. No matter how much support you have, or how much you try, even the strongest relapse. Every person is different, and thus every person’s battle is unique. Demi was sober for six years and relapsed. Ariana was with Mac for two years, in what she claims was a toxic relationship. We, the public, don’t know or see what happens behind closed doors. Living with an addict is equally as hard and Ariana leaving, and Demi ultimately relapsing, doesn’t make them weak and definitely doesn’t require a gendered blame.
Demi Lovato when she took an overdose was branded as abominable, where as Mac Miller when he overdosed and ended his life was referred to as Ariana Grande’s ex, and seen as a helpless man. Women are NOT any less helpless in vulnerable positions, OR to be blamed for male suicide
— Hannah Woodward 🏴 (@hanwoodtweets) September 11, 2018
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Lovato’s relapse does not invalidate the steps she has taken to be open and honest about addiction, nor does Grande’s public relationship with her fiance open room for the misogynistic comments that Miller’s relapse and ultimate downfall was her fault. Nor does it negate the compassion and maturity with which both women handled the sensitive and almost taboo subject. A compassion that has no doubt helped millions of people worldwide in their own lives.
As Lovato sang herself last month, her struggle only shows that she is human – and we can’t expect celebrities and public figures to be anything other than that. Thus, it’s vital that we prevent Twitter and Instagram trolls from undermining the importance of mental illness and prevent society’s views against coping and struggling with addiction, whether it be their own or that of a loved one, from becoming misinterpreted or misgendered.