Photo By: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock.com
*CONTENT WARNING: This article contains potentially disturbing content.*
The Astroworld Festival disaster that took place in Houston, Texas is a tragic example of the “the show must go on” attitude that pervades much of the mainstream entertainment industry.
By now, almost everyone has heard of rapper/multi-media star Travis Scott. From collaborations with massively popular video games like Fortnite to equally massive fast food chains such as McDonalds, it’s fair to say that there’s no avoiding Scott’s prominence in pop culture today. For this reason, the rapper has become extremely popular among teenagers and kids, which raises the first issue surrounding the tragic event that took place on Nov 5. which led to the death of nine individuals and left hundreds injured (if not potentially more).
Large numbers of people jumped over the show’s barricades and flooded the concert, creating little to no space in the venue, and making people feel as though they were suffocating. Some of the imagery is truly terrifying from a lot of clips that have surfaced online from the concert, as you see people passing out, people dancing on EMS vehicles, and people screaming for help.
When you have an audience of primarily young people, there is a level of responsibility that you must assume. The argument that a celebrity doesn’t choose their fans falls short when we examine Scott’s business ventures. Working with Fortnite, a game aimed at kids, is bound to draw young people’s attention his way, regardless of whether or not his intention is to engage with them, or if he’s only doing it for a cheque.
By not stopping the show when people are passing out right in front of the man’s eyes, as many of the leaked videos have shown was the case, he’s sending a message to those young fans: the show matters more than your safety.
A lot of backlash was directed towards a cameraman at the event who was ignoring two concert goers that were pleading with him to “stop the show”. I think this backlash isn’t necessarily warranted or helpful in the long run. The cameraman is just doing his job, and that’s no doubt part of the issue, but with the size of the corporate machinery that follows Travis Scott, attention would be better directed at the performer and the stuff he’s been allowed to get away with with large corporate sponsors at his side. Keep in mind, Scott has a track record of inciting violence at his shows prior to this one.
Scott did end up paying for the funeral costs of the deceased concert attendees. But then, after a strange apology video that had a black and white filter (to make it more sad?), the rapper partnered with the therapy app BetterHelp. This specific therapy app is notorious for its YouTuber and celebrity endorsements, offering convenient and cheap counselling over your phone via texting, video, and phone calls. Although, as many have pointed out, there’s some shady and borderline predatory aspects to the app. For example, the specifications of the professional qualifications of the app’s therapists is not clearly outlined in the terms of service.
The rapper is offering one month of free service on the app where you enter your credit card info and then hopefully forget to cancel before the payments kick in after your trial is up, which actually happened to me, and when I asked for a refund because I hadn’t used the four counselling sessions of the month I accidentally paid for, I got no response and no refund. Furthermore, after Scott made the announcement about the partnership, another former BetterHelp user posted a screenshot of a counsellor responding over text with “oh” after being made aware of the user’s suicidal thoughts.
It is, of course, all too predictable that Travis Scott would turn an endorsement with an app that is basically the fast food of therapy into part of his recompense initiatives. In addition, nothing in the statement declaring the partnership makes it clear whether or not Scott is being paid for this sponsorship or not.
Regardless, this whole Astroworld affair only further proves the notion that celebrity name is enough today to get away with a great deal of things, so long as you throw money bandaids at those who are trampled (literally in this case) by the entertainment industry and its rapacious behaviour.