Social media influencers Charli and Dixie D’Amelio recently posted a promotional video for their new popcorn line, “Be Happy Snacks,” in collaboration with Walmart. In the TikTok video, designed to promote this product, they dressed up as Walmart cashiers, donning the trademark uniforms and performing tasks that employees do, such as ringing up at the register and restocking products. It was basically an elaborate cosplay session, with the characters they were playing being minimum wage workers.
This marketing play garnered a lot of backlash – fans criticized the stars for “cosplaying” minimum wage workers, with one person commenting on their TikTok “it’s kinda patronizing,” while another said “did you have fun cosplaying?” I resonated with these comments because they highlighted the discomfort and unease I felt while watching these videos.
This discomfort stems from many factors and the comment, “it’s kinda patronizing” captures a critical factor of that. Many people felt the video was condescending and trivializing the real struggle of working class people. According to Policy Link, “working poor” is defined as full-time workers below 200 percent of the poverty line. Alarmingly, there are currently over 100 million people living below this threshold in the United States, which is one in three people. In stark juxtaposition to that, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio have amassed a combined net worth of $30 million dollars. These are millionaires pretending to be workers, who can barely make ends meet.
Additionally, their socioeconomic background contributes to why the video is so insensitive. They come from a very privileged background with their father, Marc D’Amelio, being a successful businessman with a net worth of $2 million dollars. They have always been far removed from the working class and the struggles that come with it, which range from financial concerns to job insecurities. They come from a different world, one where they haven’t had to struggle like the working class do.
Although this type of trend isn’t new, it is certainly disheartening to see celebrities with such immense privilege and a platform choosing to make this decision. They are so out of touch that they chose to dress up as minimum wage workers, which in their eyes was for a fun little promotional video. Additionally, it is important to highlight the financial implications of this. This video and this promotion is probably bringing in thousands of dollars for them. They are profiting off mimicking a reality that is so far disconnected from the world that they live in, and this profit comes at the expense of empathy and understanding for the working class, and in turn, is exploiting the struggles of working class people.
This controversy highlights the profound chasm between celebrities and working class people. With a platform that big, there is a certain responsibility in how you choose to use your platform and your privilege. Even if you are not an advocate, the bare minimum is not making a mockery of people and the work that they do. This invites us to reflect on the importance of empathy and compassion and the need for more thoughtful influencers.