While some of our colleagues might be inclined to call the exchange of open letters between Lady Gaga and Sharon and Kelly Osbourne a “feud,” we prefer to take this in another light: If you read it objectively, it’s actually a fascinating exchange between some rather smart women about the nature of criticism vs. bullying — OK, with a little Mama Bear action for good measure.
Apparently, this all started last year, when Kelly said she’d been receiving negative, threatening comments from Gaga fans about her appearance and weight, with tweets like, “Kelly Osbourne needs to kill herself.” Sharon wrote a private note to Gaga’s manager Vincent Herbert, citing Gaga’s anti-bullying work and suggesting, “One tweet from Gaga can change this whole situation. I’m not asking her to deal with this directly but she if she could tweet something to her fans about being more respectful that may end this,” the talk-show host wrote. She followed it up with another email to him this week, both of which she posted on her Facebook page.
Yesterday, Gaga responded with an open letter to Kelly on her Little Monsters site. “I have empathy for you Kelly, but I feel it culturally important to note that you have chosen a less compassionate path,” she writes. “Your work on E! with the Fashion Police is rooted in criticism, judgment, and rating people’s beauty against one another. ‘Appearance’ is the most used reason for bullying in the world. Your show breeds negativity, and over the years has even become comedic in nature.” By criticizing celebrities on her show, Gaga argues, she’s setting a bad example for young girls who feel it’s acceptable to criticize others. “[W]e can all do our part in the media to set a standard of respect, compassion, and love. I wish for you to be treated with the kindness and respect that everyone deserves.”
That prompted Sharon to respond publicly as well, with a post on Facebook last night, first questioning why Gaga would answer her private email with a public message addressed to her daughter. “I reached out to him as Kelly’s manager and mother to ask him if you could address your ‘little monster’ fans and stop them from writing libelous, slanderous and vile comments about my family, including death threats to Kelly. Your open letter is hypocritical and full of contradictions,” she says. And then the claws come out: “[W]hen I saw you wear a dress made out of raw meat, I was sickened. When I see you wearing fur, and using it as a fashion statement, the fact that defenseless animals have been killed so you can get your picture in the press is abhorrent to me. Shouldn’t you be teaching your ‘little monster’ fans to respect animals and life?
“You know it would have been much more dignified of you to do this privately,” Sharon continues. “I am calling you a bully because you have 32 million followers hanging on your every word and you are criticizing Kelly in your open letter. Are you so desperate that you needed to make this public?”
She closes with a real kicker, too: “In closing, stop wearing fur, stop looking for publicity, and stop using your fans to belittle not just Kelly but an endless stream of celebrities. A word from you would stop all the hideous, negative and vile threats from your ‘little monsters.’ Let me know if you want to continue this debate. I’m an open playing field for you my darling.”
OK, so maybe it is a feud. But both ladies bring up such good points. Is what Kelly does on Fashion Police bullying? Or is it legitimate criticism of art in the form of fashion? At what point does that become personal? I would argue that the line between bullying and criticism depends both on the vulnerability of the subject, and the content of the critique.
But what do you think? Let’s continue this debate ourselves … in a non-bullying, civilized manner, naturally!
[Photos: Getty Images]