The trajectory of Lorde’s very early career has been interesting. The singer dominated the pop music scene earlier this year with her hit “Royals,” but then fell subject to various and at times bizarre criticisms that seem to come hand-in-hand with success these days. One of the more prominent claims was that Lorde’s hit song was racist, as some listeners felt she portrayed hip-hop culture in a negative way.
That accusation may have come and gone, but now the singer has become the target of racism herself. Apparently Justin Bieber and One Direction fans are under the impression that Lorde, at some point, called Justin Bieber and the boys of One Direction ugly. (As Jezebel points out, actual proof of this hasn’t surfaced.) In an act of retaliation, Bieber and 1D fans took to Twitter to attack the singer’s boyfriend James Lowe, using Asian stereotypes to make fun of him and calling him “ugly.”
These tweets show that there are two equally disappointing ideologies at play here. One is the assumption that a couple’s happiness (and our consequential approval of them) is based on the equivalence of their attractiveness. The other more obvious one, is that despite how much we feel we’ve “progressed” as a society, using someone’s race is still a way of insulting someone. People are baffled that she’d choose someone who they deem is not of the level of someone as beautiful and wildly successful, but they are downright “disgusted” and “uncomfortable” that it’d be with someone not of her own race.
And it only took one person to voice this damaging belief for it to spread. That’s the danger of social media in the hands of trigger-happy teens; where the retweets and likes grow, so does the strength and power of the sentiment. One of these tweets that states “Lorde and her boyfriend make me uncomfortable” has 4,030 retweets and 4,638 favorites alone. That’s the technological equivalent of the popular girl in school saying to a hesitant follower, “Haha, go on, just trip her. She’s so weird, it’ll be SO funny.”
Considering the volatile nature of Beliebers and One Direction fans, the attack isn’t necessarily surprising, but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening.