When Rihanna stepped out wearing her crystal-embellished dress to the CFDA fashion awards, she knew the world would talk. The Bajan singer is certainly no
stranger to controversy; she has been suspended from Twitter numerous times for posting near-nude photos and in 2010 drew more than 1,000 complaints for her raunchy, pre-watershed X-factor performance. Well aware of the backlash she would receive wearing a dress sheer enough to expose her behind and chest, she wore it anyway, and who can really blame her?
We live in a world that delights in the shenanigans young celebrities take part in as if it were a fashion statement. Regardless of generation – don’t be fooled into thinking the likes of Rihanna and Miley Cyrus are onto something new- our society indulges in the Britneys; the Madonnas; the Marilyns. It would almost seem that a person being worth watching is directly related to how far they push the envelope. Television programs such as Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex have a prominent viewership simply because they often contain disputes and activity that incite a furore. Yes, it’s interesting to see the ‘glamorous’ life; yes, there is a definite appeal for the world of the Celebrity, an interest in watching how others go about their day; but there is an even guiltier pleasure in criticising those who have fame and riches.
We lambaste them for any questionable actions, call foul on their outrageous behaviour, and then tune in the following week for more. We are a society that is attracted to the shocking, the offensive, lapping up meltdowns and controversies for all we antagonise them. Rihanna’s dress has been derided, spawned naysayers and encouraged debates about whether she was empowered by her body or bowing to the social expectation of a sexually appealing female singer.
But, in the end, she made headlines, and probably chose her outfit in anticipation of the subsequent press coverage that would put her name front and centre. It is the ultimate vicious cycle. Rihanna wears a dress; the voyeuristic society scrambles to comment on it, gives her an award for her boldness; Rihanna does something even more controversial (perhaps wearing an even more risqué ensemble to the 2014 Teen Choice Awards?).
So we must ask ourselves: should I really slam Rihanna when she is merely pandering to the gossip-loving masses? Should I condemn Justin Bieber’s anti-social behaviour, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson’s shameless marijuana video, when it encourages discussion and – quite frankly – provides entertainment? Is it fair to call Miley ‘shameful’ and then turn around and say Leona Lewis is, ‘boring’? We are constantly shaking a finger with one hand and yet encouraging discord with the other. The likes of Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian have gained notoriety through controversial incidents; for every inspirational story, there is a celebrity argument or sex-tape that grabs the media’s attention. For all our jabs and gibes, the celebrities remain celebrities, and we hold our breaths for whatever their next outrageous act will be.