Last week (August 28th, 2020), it was announced that Chadwick Boseman had passed away, following a four-year battle with colon cancer. The actor had been dealing with the disease privately, still working in leading roles and helping change the world by taking on the titular character in Marvel’s Black Panther. Boseman's final movie role will be in the Netflix original film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, where he stars alongside Viola Davis and Colman Domingo.
He was without a doubt in the prime of his career, but his final few months were plagued with unnecessary and cruel comments from anonymous social media users, delivering low blows over the star’s appearance.
Boseman was more than ever noticeably thin when he attended the 2020 NBA All-Star game at the United Center in Chicago earlier this year. On April 15th, 2020 (Jackie Robinson Day), he posted a video to his social media account only to be mocked. He was accused by strangers of having a drug problem, but still kept the situation with his health a private matter.
Fans of the star who have flocked to social media to praise the late actor for his incredible work have also retrospectively defended him from those trolls. At a time like this we must ask ourselves, whatever happened to the #BeKind movement?
When former Love Island host Caroline Flack took her own life (February 15th, 2019) following a very public legal case where she was accused of assaulting her then-boyfriend Lewis Burton, thousands committed to treating those in the spotlight with the same respect they would treat a stranger on the street. That meant no more targeted harassment of them on Twitter, and abusive comments on Facebook.
Still, the headlines rolled in as tabloids and news outlets claimed fans were “worried” about the actor because of his reduced weight. The line was crossed. People were no longer talking about how he had changed the world, showing little black kids that they too could be superheroes. Instead, they were talking about Boseman’s personal life, digging into business that they had no right to attempt to expose.
We saw the same thing happen with Sarah Harding. She felt she had to announce her own cancer battle on August 26th, 2020, because she was spotted in a hospital by somebody who recognised her and let their mouth get the better of them. We must do better.
Celebrities - even when they play super-powered comic book characters on the big screen - are still human beings. We must stop putting them on pedestals and expecting more of them than we would of anybody else. It’s time to learn empathy again. Many of us have lost that trait somewhere along the way.