- Ariana Grande/YouTube
- A critique of Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” video published on Into went viral for its “reaching” analysis that said the video is “anti-queer.”
- In the wake of the controversy, Into removed the author from the post claiming that they were receiving death threats.
- Changing or removing names from articles is a controversial act in journalism.
Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” broke the internet twice, with smash releases of the song itself and its ’90s nostalgia-laden music video – and now, a hot take critiquing the video is creating its own online buzz.
On Monday, LGBT-focused publication Into posted an opinion piece calling out the video for numerous “anti-queer” moments. The piece alleged that a man in drag was meant to mock trans women, called a reference made in a cameo by singer Troye Sivan (who is gay) homophobic, accused Grande of blackface, and suggested that Kris Jenner mocked her ex Caitlyn Jenner for being trans in her cameo appearance in the video:
She simply shouts “Thank you, next, bitch!” while holding a camera – the final line of the music video. As “bitch” is generally directed at women and “thank you, next” is in reference to relationships, this is likely aimed at Caitlyn Jenner… Perhaps this is in reference to Caitlyn’s far-right politics. Perhaps it’s a jab at her trans identity. We can’t be sure unless Kris Jenner speaks out about the line.
The article quickly spread online, attracting massive amounts of criticism for what many called “reaching,” or drawing unsupported conclusions. In less than 24 hours, Into’s tweet had over 3,200 replies.
Hours after the piece was posted, Sivan, who has 8.71 million Twitter followers, replied to the article, writing on the social media platform, “This literally can’t be real I’m scream.”
This literally can’t be real I’m scream
— troye (@troyesivan) December 3, 2018
Tatianna, of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, echoed the sentiments of most of those replying, writing, “I’m sorry but this is the farthest reaching article I’ve read in my whole entire life.”
The pile-on quickly turned dark, according to the post’s author and Into.
“I’ve received dozens of death threats [on Twitter and Tumblr] in the past 24 hours,” wrote the author in an email to INSIDER. The threats, which the author says are coming from “almost exclusively Ari fans” have allegedly called for the author’s “shooting, hanging, and burying alive.” Several of the threats have been verified by INSIDER.
The author, who identifies as a fan of Grande’s music, called the response “massively overblown,” saying, “this was supposed to be a lighthearted thinkpiece/op-ed questioning the artistic choices of the production, not Ariana herself.”
As a result of the alleged threats, Into removed the name of the author, writing: “INTO has historically been a place for varying opinions from LGBTQ people around the world, and will remain such a place – but these opinions never warrant violence. And when a writer’s own life could potentially be at stake, we must take necessary steps to ensure their safety.”
Despite the step, Twitter users proceeded to identify the author with posts and screenshots, expressing outrage at allegations of sexual assault previously made against the author.
Changing or removing names has been a controversial step in journalism. Many journalists believe that changing a byline is a form of deception, as senior vice president of journalist group Poynter said in 2014. The Washington Post has had a longstanding rule not to publish anonymous op-eds, as has been repeatedly confirmed by editor Fred Hiatt.
But some digital outlets have become more flexible on the standard under the pressure of massive shaming and threats that sometimes occur on the internet.
Other users targeted the editors of the site, asking why the piece was published at all. Into editor Zach Stafford did not immediately respond for comment. On Twitter, writer Sydney Urbanek wrote, “Any editor that’d run something like this as is doesn’t care about the writer.”
The author of the piece seemed to agree, saying, “The piece could have been edited more heavily.”
“I assumed mostly queer and trans people would be the ones to read it.” wrote the writer. “I could certainly have done a better job explaining concepts like transmisogyny, anti-queer sentiment, and blackface had I known this would blow up.”
Update: After this article was published, Into’s editor-in-chief Zach Stafford published a statement saying “We as editors failed the writer by not working with her to ensure the piece met our standards.”