“Let them eat cake” clip sparks mass blockout of celebrities on social media

Spending any time on social media at the weekend may have pushed a clip of influencer Haylee Kalil – Halyybaylee on TikTok – onto your feed.

In the since-deleted video, Kalil was seen dressed in a flower-drenched frock with a clip of the infamously misattributed Marie Antoinette quote “let them eat cake”. The quote is said to have been uttered by the French royal while the French peasantry starved thanks to Antoinette’s decisions as France’s leader. The queen was ultimately beheaded during the French Revolution with the words “let them eat cake” said to be the catalyst for the revolution.

While Kalil was filming her TikToks and prancing around the streets of New York, Rafah in Gaza was being bombed and protests unfolded blocks away from the Met Gala, as well as at universities all over the US. While Kalil wasn’t the only person at the event, her video became a lightning rod for criticism of the opulence and wilful ignorance on display. For many, the video showcased how out of touch celebrities and influencers are with the real world, enjoying the fruits of their “labour” while millions starve or worse.

But the TikToker was not the only person to attract criticism. In fact, in all the years we’ve seen coverage of the Met Gala, this is the most negative reaction to the event that we’ve seen online. Dune star Zendaya has also been slammed for attending the event and not speaking out about the tragedies unfolding in Gaza, as has Kim Kardashian who wore a dress worth millions at the event.

The Met Gala is an annual event that has the intent of raising funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Yes, not a charity to uplift people, a charity to preserve opulent costumes once worn by elitists. However, the event is shrouded in secrecy given that attendees can’t share content about it – aside from their entrance – once inside. What is known is that the event is attended by the elite class.

To showcase this, rather than apologising for hosting such an opulent event during wartime and economic turmoil, host Anna Wintour apologised for the confusing dress code. The people are not our friends.

And folks are sick of it for good reason. The war on Palestine is just one contentious issue, especially in the US where the government is directly supporting the Apartheid regime where innocent men, women and children are caught in Israel’s war campaign daily. This coupled with an ongoing war in Ukraine, famine in several parts of the world, the threat of AI on jobs and elites dispensing advice that amounts to “just don’t be poor bro” has now come back to bite them.

Fed up with the elite class, many on social media are calling for folks to block celebrities in what is being referred to as #Blockout2024. The logic here is that ordinary people give these celebrities and influencers power, power they use for their gain and unfollowing them via a blockout takes some of this power away. Some have referred to this blockout as a digitine (a portmanteau of digital guillotine) and the elites who refuse to use their reach, their wealth and their status to drive change, are among the targets being fed to the digitine.

At the weekend Kalil filmed an apology, and it was received, poorly.

The creator says they used the “let them eat cake” audio because it was trending and had been used by countless others without criticism. The difference, however, is that in Kalil’s examples, those featured in the videos are ordinary people who are showcasing a glow up or some personal achievement, Kalil’s video was simply to showcase opulence. Perhaps she was ignorant as she claims but she is getting a tough lesson in how Antoinette’s story ended.

However, the creator then mentions all the ills of the world, as well as “this situation”. The “situation” is the conflict in Gaza, but Kalil can’t even bring herself to mention it. She does state that she’s not informed enough to comment on it, but that’s wilful ignorance.

The relentless attack on Palestinians in pursuit of Hamas by Israel has captured global headlines for as long as Kalil has been alive, while the attacks on 7th October reignited the conversation, there have been years to get informed. Hell, if Macklemore can get informed in a few months, Kalil can as well.

The creator is clearly afraid of taking a side in this conflict because others have lost work due to their opinions. This includes Google employees who participated in a pro-Palestine protest.

The prevailing opinion appears to be that if ordinary people can live with the discomfort of the global economy, the after-effects of a pandemic and worse, celebrities can live with the discomfort of not being the first choice in an influencer campaign because they spoke out about a war.

Since #Blockout2024 began, some celebrities have made statements. According to NBC, Lizzo and Chris Olsen have posted videos encouraging followers to support families in Gaza and donate to organisations supporting Palestinians in the region. While some have criticised this as reacting to the threat of blockout, some have said this is the campaign working. Those who have not spoken out, including Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift continue to haemorrhage followers on social media as a result of the blockout.

Over the last few years, there has been a growing distaste for celebrities, billionaires and others who earn more than most can in two lifetimes. Now more than ever are the class lines visible to all and it’s clear that those who occupy the penthouse suites and mansions have no interest in making the world a better place.

How this blockout will unfold in the coming months is unclear, but with tensions high the world over, we wouldn’t want to be any sort of wealthy person right now. Unfortunately for Kalil, the hunger to see the rich suffer has been reignited and ordinary folks may start breaking out actual guillotines in order to check if the heads of celebrities and billionaires are cake.

May the odds be ever in your favour celebrities, as the blockout is just the beginning.

[Image – Queen Marie Antoinette’s execution on 16 October 1793]


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