Billie Eillish’s disturbing Halloween post alludes to pedophilia

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Michelle Batres

American singers Billie Eilish and Jesse Rutherford posted a controversial post on Halloween, spurring fans on to start a conversation on grooming.

Billie Eilish, 21, posted on her Instagram a photo of her and her boyfriend, Jesse Rutherford, 31, dressed as a baby and an old man for Halloween on November 1, 2022.

Although Billie meant the post as a joke, given that she and Rutherford have a 10-year age gap, many of her fans criticized her choice of Halloween costume.  They point out that dressing up as an old man and a baby is offensive to those, especially women, who have been in toxic relationships with older, manipulative men.

The Instagram user, @kahlanspatty, commented on Billie’s post, “Let’s not pass over the fact she’s dressed as a baby and Jesse as an old man. Jokes about pedophilia aren’t funny.”  Honestly, I couldn’t agree more.

Most of Billie’s songs focus on topics of love, depression, sadness, self-image, and self-empowerment.  Many people who listen to her music perceive Billie as a role model, and as many musical artists do for people, her music has helped listeners through difficult times, putting their struggles and emotions into haunting lyrics and sounds.  Most importantly, some of her listeners may have been victims of grooming too.

Making fun of grooming—which refers to when an adult tries to form a relationship with a minor with the intent to sexually assault them or persuade them to partake in illegal acts—is not okay, especially when it originates from an artist whom many young girls look up to.

Eilish captioned the post “life is craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy 🤡 happy halloween 🎃🥰,” and yes, life is crazy.  How can someone who wrote Your Power—a song about power dynamics in romantic relationships—also make fun of the same issue in a post with her (older) boyfriend?

As an artist who maintains a massive online platform, consisting of 107 million followers on Instagram, Eilish bears the responsibility to post things that offend or make light of situations that may extremely traumatic for some.

And I’m not saying couples with larger age gaps are wrong. My problem lies in Billie’s decision to make it into a caricature that emphasizes pedophilia, especially between young girls and older men.

An example of the problematic tones regarding young girls and older men lies in Netflix’s documentary titled Keep Sweet: Prey and Obey, which was released in June 2022.  The disturbing documentary talks about how certain leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS)—not to be confused with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. FLDS is a radical polygamist sect that separated from the Mormon Church over 100 years ago and married underage girls to older men ranging from ages 40 and up.

These girls didn’t know any better and thought it was something normal, when in reality, it wasn’t. In the documentary, one of the victims added that when they were married to one of these men, they had sex because that’s what they were supposed to do.  They were never taught anything but to obey their husbands, and this led to many being traumatized.

Imagine if a survivor saw Billie’s post. It is not okay for Billie to make fun of a situation that involves pedophilia, especially given the absolutely traumatic history behind several pedophilia cases.  Even if she didn’t expect the way her fans would react to it, the fact that her post is still up says a lot.

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