This week, the internet dug its teeth into some drama surrounding TikTok star Charli D’Amelio. The star featured in a new video posted to the D’Amelio family YouTube channel, and fans and critics took serious issue with D’Amelio’s remarks and attitude at the dinner table. While the criticism is understandable, it’s important to look at this incident in the context of the influencer world as a whole. We have to look at how fans and the media treat other influencers. D’Amelio is a 16-year-old girl, and she is taking harsher criticism and more tangible punishments than other, much older, men have taken in similar circumstances. It is a poignant demonstration of how the modern media world treats teenage girls and their mistakes.
What Really Went Down
Drama exploded over a dinner in which the D’Amelio family sat down with fellow YouTuber James Charles for a meal crafted by accomplished private Chef Aaron May. The chef made two versions of the meal, one entirely plant-based for the mom of the family, Heidi D’Amelio. Chef May whipped up some paella, homemade bread, and what appeared to be ice cream for dessert. It all looked quite lovely, but things quickly went wrong.
While the chef explained the details of the various dishes he had prepared to the table, Charli D’Amelio made disgusted faces. She scrunched up her nose and frowned multiple times while the chef was speaking. Dixie D’Amelio, Charli’s 19-year-old sister gagged when she tried a snail from the dish and then ran from the table to throw up. Instead of quietly eating around the snails, she made quite the scene. Her parents casually remark that this kind of behavior is classic Dixie, who is evidently prone to such dramatic scenes. While Dixie is making a thing of the snails, Charli asks, in a bored voice with the chef standing right behind her, if there are any Dino nuggets.
The D’Amelio girls’ less-than-perfect behavior is made even more obvious by the enthusiastic politeness of their guest. Charles makes a point of loudly exclaiming how amazing everything looks with a thank you and a big old smile. As the meal progressed, Charli D’Amelio whined about how she did not hit 100 million followers on the one year anniversary of hitting 1 million followers. The whole thing was a case study in spoiled teenage brattiness.
The Fans Respond
Fans immediately responded to the off-putting aspects of this disastrous dinner. They trashed Charli D’Amelio en masse, calling her rude, entitled, ungrateful, spoiled, and disrespectful. Many noted that their own parents would kick their asses if they ever behaved like that at a dinner table, which is definitely a thought that crossed my mind as well. The star responded by making a video in which she cries and says she’s been receiving death threats over the whole fiasco.
While death threats are unacceptable in any situation, it is understandable why fans were upset by the whole scene. At times, it was jaw-dropping and it was embarrassing to watch.
Some Important Details
In the midst of this online feeding frenzy, it’s important to note once again that Charli D’Amelio is 16 years old. At sixteen she is still very much a child, and it’s about the level of maturity she’s displaying in this controversial video. And yet, despite her age, she is taking intense backlash normally reserved for fully-fledged adults. Imagine if someone posted to YouTube every stupid thing you said and did at sixteen. I doubt many of us would come up smelling like roses.
Another important piece of context that helps make sense of this whole scandal is that the younger D’Amelio sister openly suffers from an eating disorder. She has spoken about her issues surrounding food and body image on several occasions. It’s possible that her slightly bratty attitude towards food is a part of this disorder.
For the record, I am not excusing D’Amelio’s behavior. If people are in your home, cooking for you or cleaning for you, or taking care of your children, those people should be treated with the utmost respect. This level of snobbery is absolutely cringe-inducing and worth discussing. These parents should have a serious talk with their children about table manners. However, it doesn’t change the fact that D’Amelio’s sins are relatively minor in the big bad universe of influencer scandals.
For comparison, when Logan Paul made that incredibly tasteless video featuring a dead body in the Japanese suicide forest, he lost 6,000 subscribers in the day after the scandal broke. He did take a lot of heat in the media at the time, given the incredibly offensive nature of the content he posted. At the time, Paul was 22-years old, and his career continues to flourish today.
Logan Paul’s little brother Jake has also experienced some influencer scandals in his time. In 2019, he reportedly kicked transgender YouTuber Lilah Gibney out of a party at his house, claiming that she and her friend couldn’t stay because they weren’t “real girls”. There is no documented record of him losing any followers from the incident. He received some media attention and backlash, but not much. His career continues to flourish today, despite the personal offense he caused to those young girls.
Jeffree Star is the unofficial king of YouTube scandals. Fans have repeatedly called out the makeup guru for incredibly racist comments, including past use of the n-word. After he cited the Black Lives Matter movement in an incredibly tone-deaf fashion in an apology video over a tiff with another YouTuber, Star lost 100,000 subscribers.
Consider the Differences
Charli D’Amelio lost over one million followers in just a single day. Her mistakes, while uncomfortable to watch, are nowhere near the level of severity of her male counterparts. There was nothing racist, transphobic, or shockingly horrible to D’Amelio’s scandal. She was just kind of a brat at the dinner table. Anyone who has met a teenager knows that this happens from time to time. And yet, she is experiencing more significant and tangible backlash than any of the three of her grown male counterparts, combined.
This intense backlash comes from the impossible standard to which we hold young women. Teenage boys, young men, and even fully grown adult men are allowed to make mistakes. They experience lesser consequences because, you know, boys will be boys. When young women make mistakes, especially teenagers, it’s a whole overblown conversation. In order to be successful, young women in the public eye have to present a picture of perfection in a way that young men simply do not.
Above and Beyond
This impossible standard exists far beyond the world of TikTok and influencers. It’s a concept that can be seen on countless episodes of Dr. Phil. So many of his guests are wayward teenage girls that do not conform to his standard of behavior. The good doctor humiliates them on public TV in front of millions, and that’s supposed to help, somehow.
Charli D’Amelio chose to put this unfortunate image of herself out there, so in many ways, she is far better off than the poor young women who end up on Dr. Phil’s stage. However, their shared plight all comes from the same place. It’s all about this expectation of perfection for young women.
Teenage girls are supposed to be well dressed, made-up, and hardworking. They are supposed to be humble, and well behaved, and respectful. Young women have to maintain their looks in the same way adult women have too, but God forbid they act too adult. They have to be kind, and thoughtful, and conscientious. We can and will forgive teenage boys for a multitude of sins, but teenage girls will not be let off the hook quite so easily.
Who We Can Be Mad At Here
That dinner was a disaster, and if the keyboard warriors need to blame someone for that, so be it. If we want to criticize the parents for not better managing their teenagers, fine. We could also debate our own culpability in giving teenagers this kind of fame and platform. A more positive way to process the feelings about this dinner might be to lend support to Chef Aaron May on social media. But this level of backlash and vitriol over some vague brattiness in a 16-year-old girl is wild.