We live in an age where the gap between celebrities and commoners has reduced tremendously. Celebrities used to be unreachable and larger than life once upon a time. They are not so any longer. With the advent of social networking sites, the avenues to contact celebrities and get to know them better as regular human beings have increased, probably in the last one decade. To some extent this is good as they get feedback directly from their fans or critics and connect more with people, thus putting their stardom and influence to good use – at least sometimes.

However, there is a huge flipside to it, which is the mindset that people have taken on in the way they talk about or to celebrities. I don’t think people need to worship celebrities or treat them as larger than life figures. But we can and ought to give them the respect that any normal human being deserves. And this is one place where the social network has gone terribly wrong.

Although I have felt this way for quite a long time, I started itching to write about it when I saw the reactions from a lot of people when a leading actress in the Malayalam film industry came back to acting after a long gap of 14 years. Many were quite happy to see her back on screen, as she has always been one of the all-time favourite heroines for Malayalis. But suddenly there was a widespread slaughter of her reputation and image on social media by a number of “saints”, “the keepers of morality and culture”. They dissected her personal life and past relationships in such a way that even her family might not have done. All of a sudden, she was not an actress, but a cruel fame-craving bitch who abandoned her husband and her 14 year old daughter, just to come back into the limelight. There were discussions after discussions on why she should not be allowed to act because of the injustice she did to her family, the lack of morality she was imbibing into Malayali women and God knows what else. People even started blaming her for the dowry issues in our country because she happened to act in a jeweler’s ad, for God’s sake!! Through all this, she chose to maintain a dignified silence.

Let’s look at this very rationally. She chose to leave acting at the peak of her career. That was her choice, whatever the reasons were. We don’t know why they got a divorce – because that is something personal to them, which makes it none of our business. She chose to let her daughter live with her father as she was always more attached to him. If my parents got a divorce when I was 14, I’m damn sure I would have chosen to go with my father because I was more attached to him at that age and I would not have bothered to understand the sacrifices my mother made for my sake – for the simple reason that I had only the maturity of a 14 year old. So it’s not very difficult for me to understand why she chose her father and why her mother let her do that, instead of putting her through a custody trial. Again, all of this is none of our business. And for the ones bellowing about a mother abandoning her child for her career – get a life! I see so many women around me getting back to work hardly 3 months after their child is born. They manage their work, and take care of their kids quite efficiently. And we applaud such women for not giving up on their dreams and career. But an actress does that, that too after being a stay-at-home mom for 14 long years, and we have a problem with it. Any other woman gets back on her feet and starts working after a divorce – we say “Bravo!” But an actress chooses to come back to her job, acting – and bam! She is portrayed as the villain. So what was she supposed to do? Go on living an unhappy life, break down after the divorce and end her life?

This is just one of the many celebrity bashing incidents we see around us on a daily basis. I’ll just mention a few other incidents which irked me big time, that might give you a picture of how beyond redemption the situation is.

– A famous Hollywood actress posted a complaint about an airline which put her in the tourist class, despite her having a first class ticket. Mind you! She said nothing bad about the tourist class and even posted a picture of hers with her fellow passengers. And the internet broke with comments of how she was a bitch who saw people flying in tourist class as lowlifes and generalizing that the entire celebrity crowd is nothing but a bunch of egoistic jerks. Let me get this straight – if you pay for a first class ticket on an airline, and on boarding they tell you that you will have to sit in the economy class, won’t you complain?

– A very famous actor from Kerala passed away recently. Just after the news came out, a lot of actors posted how they felt about it on their Facebook and Twitter pages. But the only thing our people could think about was why one of the superstars posted only a photo of him with the message “Aadaranjalikal”, which roughly translates to “Paying tribute” (I am not sure if this is accurate or not – pardon me for that), and did not bother to write a lengthy message. And this complaint came up hardly hours after the actor had passed away. For the next two days they went on with an online riot against the superstar, abusing him in every way possible. Even when he finally wrote an article, just two days after the death of his close colleague, people threw stones at him with absolutely senseless comments like “There’s no use of posting anything now. You did it only because people criticized you.” But yeah, that seems a completely sane reaction from a crowd who believe that posting a picture of you crying in front of the dead body of your father and writing a sentimental message tagging 45 people is the right way to grieve! I can’t help but wonder why all these “grievers” chose to stay silent when fake news reports of the death of different actors have been spread multiple times by sadistic idiots.

– I don’t think I need to write much about the totally insensitive trolling of a famous actress just because her then-boyfriend, a genius cricketer, was out of form for a few matches. The trolls who started off with “funny” comments, went on to tarnish her image and crucify her for something that had nothing to do with her. Probably I should start worrying if I would be blamed for any mistake Hari makes at work. Oh I guess not! I am not a celebrity.

The stupidity goes overboard and becomes perversion at times. When a newly married actress posts a picture of hers one month after the wedding, the majority of the comments are about how her husband seems to be “working hard” and the effects of that hard work on her body. Probably I shouldn’t expect anything more from people who post comments about the number of condoms found in the waste bin of a hotel room where a celebrity couple stayed.

There definitely are celebrities who misuse their stardom and go on to make irresponsible and even derogatory comments or gestures in public, which people would and should criticize them for. But even in such a case, there is a line one should not cross. Abusing someone or launching a personal attack on them is not really criticism, it is just insanity.

I’ll end with just one appeal – please stop poking your nose where you have no business and understand that celebrities are also people; evaluate them for the work that they do, not for their relationships or personal lives that you have no first hand information on.