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  • Anton Alfonsin Larsen

Sam Smith: they aren’t here to make friends


Sam Smith has recently been criticised following an interview on The One Show about their passion for fly-fishing, for the somewhat puzzling outfit they sported for the Brit Awards and for an arguably unreserved music video accompanying their song “I’m Not Here to Make Friends”. Several public figures have taken to social media to publicly call out the singer, arguing that we have reached unbearable levels of sensitivity in society. Nevertheless, the level of criticism he has received for their choices seems uncalled for and simply unjust.

Smith’s Brits Awards 2023 outfit choice is not one I’d personally favour; it seems fundamentally uncomfortable and unflattering. On top of that, with my misfortune of possessing a clumsy six-foot-four frame, I would inevitably become responsible for the total annihilation of whole collections of champagne glasses on such a celebratory evening.

I’ll also admit that I also wouldn’t naturally have addressed people who fish as ‘fisherthem’. It isn’t the conventional name we have previously given fishermen or fisherwomen, which don’t seem entirely inappropriate or offensive.

But why should Sam Smith not be allowed to wear, do and say such things?

Yes, it is an outfit that stands out from the crowd and inherently draws eager paparazzi attention. And yes, calling a person who goes fishing “a fisherthem” might initially elucidate bafflement. But Sam Smith isn’t causing direct offence with their outfit, and a “fisherthem” is universally inclusive. So why are people so bothered?

What has been argued is that, by now, political correctness has been taken too far. Supporters of this notion have suggested that people have developed less thick-skinned attitudes than in the past.

Particular agitation surrounds the repercussions incurred when one opts not to use gender neutral pronouns or even express concern over their validity. It is not hard to find people who find the use of gender-neutral pronouns confusing or intimidating.

“Cancel culture”, by which some public figures have become widely neglected, has played an expansive role in society. Members of small minorities or those who encourage this culture have encountered a wave of criticism, typically being labelled ‘woke’. Considering their position as a leading UK advocate of issues surrounding inclusivity, it was inevitable that Sam Smith’s actions would come under question.

One of their most explicit critics was Piers Morgan, who contributed the usual quintessential unsolicited comment. Concerning Smith’s Brits outfit and their comments in their One Show interview, Morgan stated that “methinks ‘they’ is getting a teeny-weeny bit over-thirsty for attention” later adding that “Sam Smith needs to shut up”.

There is no doubt that, through their actions, Sam Smith is outrightly provocative. That is clear even to those who support them. Smith’s video could be compared to those of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke – whose fans even accepted that the flaunting of sexual topics in their respective music videos was provocative. Owen Jones rightly highlights that “Sam Smith has made the criminal offence of being a) queer and b) not skinny”. He continues stating that “in an increasingly anti-LGBTQ culture, that can’t be tolerated”.

If we look at the past, meaningful social change has always come as a result of some form of radical action. Consider Mandela and the South African anti-apartheid movement, Fawcett and Pankhurst who were essential in achieving British female suffrage, and now Greta Thunberg who has revolutionised the global climate change movement. Sam Smith positively encourages a more inclusive society and may well go down as a key leader within the British LGBTQIA+ movement.

All these figures gain significant public attention, yes. Nevertheless, they all pursue a wider altruistic cause. Sam Smith may gain more listeners on Spotify, but first people have either been exposed to gender inclusive language or a non-female figure donning pearls and a sparkly two-piece outfit. Smith is making critical steps in the path to creating a more inclusive world.

Now, do I think that Sam Smith will necessarily be the Mandela of the global LGBTQIA+ movement? Probably not. I am not a massive fan of Sam Smith, much of his music doesn’t particularly attract me and, as someone who isn’t directly affected by these issues, many might ask why I am even writing about this.

My frustration with this topic surrounds the lack of willingness in accepting Sam Smith’s actions, which aren’t directly offensive or harmful. Yes, there is flamboyance and extravaganza, but why shouldn’t this be allowed to be the case? Surely this is an essential step in achieving the world free of identity that John Lennon sings about.

Image: Karina lago/ Unsplash



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