Trevor Noah says that canceling Chrissy Teigen misses the point
No one on late night has greater range than Trevor Noah. The host of The Daily Show can be incredibly goofy at times, like an overgrown child. But when he addresses the most complex issues of our time, Noah becomes the smartest adult in the room.
He's deployed his keen wit and nuanced understanding of history to parse police violence and the dictatorial rise of Trump. He has leveraged his platform to educate viewers about domestic violence and mental health, weaving his personal experience into the narrative. On Tuesday, Noah delivered his thoughts on the Chrissy Teigen Twitter bullying scandal, and — no surprise here — it's the exact right take.
To recap, Teigen is facing cancellation by her own hand, following the revelation that she viciously trolled people on Twitter a decade ago. It started with a Daily Beast interview with Courtney Stodden, where she called out Teigen for bullying: "She wouldn’t just publicly tweet about wanting me to take 'a dirt nap' but would privately DM me and tell me to kill myself. Things like, 'I can’t wait for you to die,'" Stodden said. Teigen apologized on Twitter on May 12: "Not a lot of people are lucky enough to be held accountable for all their past bullshit in front of the entire world. I’m mortified and sad at who I used to be. I was an insecure, attention-seeking troll."
Other people bullied by Teigen have since come forward. Fashion designer Michael Costello said being targeted by the superstar left him traumatized with "thoughts of suicide." Farrah Abraham, one of the former teen mothers featured on 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, said she's still waiting for an apology after being slut shamed for a leaked sex tape. Teigen posted a second lengthy apology on June 14: "Words have consequences and there are real people behind the Twitter handles I went after," she wrote. "I wasn’t just attacking some random avatar, but hurting young women — some who were still girls — who had feelings. How could I not stop and think of that?"
Everything about this scandal is tragic and painful for everyone involved, which is one reason I haven't been interested in wading into the discourse around how severely Teigen should be punished. Noah zeroed in on the more important question: is an apology tour what we really want from this mess? Instead, he argued, social media platforms need to stop rewarding users for picking fights and trolling their peers. Bullying will be a problem as long as these sites incentivize being a prick.
That's the story behind Teigen's ascent, anyway. Back when being mean was a way to amass clout on Twitter, she was vicious. As the tide turned towards vulnerability, she followed suit, flaunting her relatability (even when her privileged existence wasn't that relatable). What Noah is pointing out is that perhaps Teigen isn't an evil person — the internet makes it really easy to hurl insults you'd never in a million years say to another human in real life. Rather, she was a weak, fame-chasing person, susceptible to trading decency for power, like so many other would-be influencers these days.