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The Guardian

Harry Styles thinks ‘people like him’ don’t get awards? That’s daft – but it’s not evil

By Arwa Mahdawi,


Harry Edward Styles is a middle-class white man with a nice face and an enormous bank account. “People like him” are not usually considered an oppressed minority. And yet the 29-year-old pop star has been widely accused of claiming to be a member of an underclass during the Grammy awards on Sunday night. “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often,” Styles said as he scooped up best pop vocal album and album of the year. Cue confusion and uproar as people pointed out that white men win awards rather often. Meanwhile, a black woman hasn’t won album of the year since Lauryn Hill in 1999.

Brace yourself, because this article is about to go in one direction you may have thought I would never head. I am going to defend a rich man!

Styles’ wording was clumsy and embarrassingly tone-deaf. I can see why it upset people. But vitriol towards him is misplaced: it seems to me that he is just a nice, slightly dim guy who can’t quite believe his good fortune and who has run out of things to say at award shows. Why vilify him for that?

I have seen some people try to take a defence of him further and claim he was making an incisive point about the lack of working-class people in the British arts. There is certainly a lot to be said on this point, but it’s hard to see how Styles figures in that conversation. That he once had a part-time job in a bakery and went to a state school (a very good one!) hardly makes him working class. Having said that, the debate raging online about where Styles sits on the class spectrum is a fascinating insight into Britain’s class obsession.

Speaking of spectrums, I also think it’s unfair that Styles is accused routinely of “queerbaiting”, or pretending to be LGBTQ+ in order to get attention (a debate that has resurfaced since the Grammys controversy). He likes experimenting with flamboyant clothes! That’s it! It’s weird and regressive to think that means he is making a statement about his sexual orientation or gender identity. Let the man wear his “clowncore” jumpsuits in peace. There are far more deserving targets for people’s anger.

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