I have been struggling with a question brought on by the #MeToo movement, and have been challenged by more recent events such as the partnership between anthem-kneeling Colin Kaepernick and Nike: can I support a person or a brand without agreeing with their ideologies?
As I’ve struggled with this question, there’s one thing that has become apparent to me: in Western culture, we rarely value our personal beliefs above things that give us comfort, make our lives easier, or just simply want. After Johnny Depp (supposedly, but popularly believed presumably) assaulted his then-wife, actress Amber Heard, I still watched (and do watch) the Pirates of the Caribbean series. I still enjoy and look forward to his roles in the J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts movie franchise. I will pay to see the upcoming Crimes of Grindelwald in theaters, thereby supporting Depp monetarily, despite the fact that I think his treatment of Heard was far from acceptable.
Apart from Western culture, this perhaps contradictory behavior is not as common. Particularly in the Middle East, people value their beliefs, morals, worldview, etc. far more than anything else, and alienate themselves from anything that differs from their core values. Maybe this cultural discontinuity has to do with the blessings of Western technology that make us selfish- as if we are entitled to comfort- whereas other countries aren’t blessed enough to have this arguably problematic mindset.
When this issue arose again following the controversial Kaepernick x Nike collaboration, many burned their Nike merchandise. Videos were uploaded to Instagram, Snapchat, and various forms of social media depicting people tossing shoes, shirts, and other gear into open flames. Whether you agree with this sentiment by supporting the Kaepernick x Nike collaboration, or find yourself indifferent, it’s apparent that just over a week later, these polarizing emotions have cooled. In fact, according to Investor’s Business Daily, sales have in skyrocketed since the Kaepernick ads first aired, despite the apparent outpourings of outrage. Although Nike stock dropped briefly, it quickly bounced back, rising to 85.61 and hitting a record high.
Perhaps this rise in stock is due to general publicity or perhaps more people support Colin Kaepernick and kneeling during the anthem than are accounted for in most polls (53% of Americans say it’s “never appropriate” to kneel during the anthem according to Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation), but I believe that this can be credited to the common lack of follow through between beliefs and action common to Western culture.
And, personally, I think this is something we need to work on. Despite my opinions on Johnny Depp or Nike’s campaign decisions, the idea of living in a culture that values comfort and personal desire over core values is something I find deeply unsettling and something I think that we as a culture need to call out – and more importantly, actually take action to change.