Opinion — the Mia Goth debate is toxic stan culture exemplified
The actress is being sued by an extra who alleges she ‘intentionally’ kicked him in the head on set. In response, a sub-section of her fanbase has dismissed the assault accusations with trivialising language, highlighting the problematic nature of out-of-control para-social relationships.
During the last few years, Mia Goth has cemented her position as the ‘It Girl’ of horror, widely obsessed-over for her leading roles in Pearl, X, and the hotly-anticipated final instalment of the A24 slasher film trilogy, MaXXXine.
After achieving a career breakthrough with the series, the eccentric star earned herself a cult following for her memorable performances in these provocative projects and, until recently, her fanbase extended across most of the Internet.
Reports that she’s being sued by an extra who alleges she ‘intentionally’ kicked him in the head on set have dampened Mia’s far-reaching appeal and threaten to corrupt her personal brand, however.
As background actor James Hunter claims, Mia ‘taunted, mocked, and belittled’ him while filming a scene together for MaXXXine in April 2023 because he complained about her behaviour.
Following several takes playing ‘dead parishioner,’ it’s also been documented that ‘defendant Goth intentionally kicked plaintiff in his head with her boot, causing plaintiff to immediately experience a headache and stiffness in his neck.’
Hunter testified that, the next day, he was wrongfully terminated by the entertainment company and later diagnosed with concussion, suffering symptoms including disorientation, vertigo, nightmares, migraines, and severe emotional distress. He has since filed a civil action of battery against Goth.
This is where things take an unexpected turn. Most often, when a celebrity is accused of something as serious as assault, netizens don’t hesitate to voice their negative opinions and ‘cancel’ whoever’s facing the allegations.
On this occasion, however, social media has been divided, with one sub-section of Mia’s fanbase logically making plain its aversion to the situation and the other expressing its continued support of ‘Mother,’ a word used online to honour famous women to the highest degree (alongside variations of ‘serving,’ ‘slay,’ and ‘cunt’).
‘I don’t care if Mia Goth kicked that person on set, that’s Mother,’ shared a die-hard fan on X. ‘How you let Mia Goth bully you LMAO that’s Mother idc. Boohoo, she will always be Mother,’ wrote another.
Such blatant dismissal is of course hugely concerning, going much deeper than a bit of harmless fun and openly highlighting the problematic nature of out-of-control para-social relationships.
‘Mia Goth allegedly assaulted a worker and you see people making jokes and calling her Mother… stan culture and para-social relationships have your brains cooked,’ commented a user disgusted at the trivialising language used to gloss over an objectively abusive incident.
‘I’m such a Mia Goth fan but saying she’s Mother for allegedly kicking someone in the head is chronically online behaviour. It’s neither cute nor funny,’ argued another.
Obviously, it’s important to note that the issue here isn’t people engaging in stan culture, rather what occurs when unwavering investment in public figures veers from the realm of reality.
While our readiness to vilify male celebrities for offences like Mia’s and disregard famous females for the same is a dilemma in itself (this particular debate is a prime example of society’s general discomfort with the idea that women can be abusers), forgiving anyone for assault would be downright absurd if we weren’t doing so from behind a phone screen.
Putting people on a pedestal this way and in turn overlooking their undeniably flawed actions blurs the lines between what we would naturally deem as wrong and that’s when fans choosing to view para-social relationships as being genuine becomes inherently toxic — and dangerous.
‘We weren’t really created to be thinking about strangers on the other end of the planet — who we’ve never met and who we see as somehow connected to our lives,’ explains Dr Louie D Valencia, Associate Professor of Digital History at Texas State University.
‘We consume celebrities not just from an enjoyment or entertainment level but on a consumptive level where they are almost a part of our identities. They must represent everything we identify with. And what happens when they diverge from our perceptions? We have to find a way to realign what they mean to us to fit with what we want them to mean to us.’
So, am I suggesting we stop channelling our dedication to the well-known individuals we admire? No.
Simply that this admiration shouldn’t cross the threshold of our moral values and give us misplaced permission to condone transgressions on the grounds that they were carried out by our favourite celebrities.
Upholding the belief that ‘it’s not that bad because they’re famous’ is an insult to those, like Hunter, who’ve been affected.