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Bette Midler tried to publicly shame three girls for using their phones in an art gallery – and it epically backfired

Reiss Smith December 9, 2019
Bette Midler / three girls on a bench in front of a painting, looking at their phones

Bette Midler tweeted this photo of three girls at an art gallery. (Getty/Twitter)

Problematic actor Bette Midler was read by basically the entire internet after she tried to publicly shame three girls for looking at their phones instead of art in a gallery.

Midler shared a photo of the girls nose-deep in their smart phones – seemingly oblivious to the painting hung behind them – and asked Twitter: “What’s wrong with this picture?”

The answer, it seemed, was that a grown woman was trying to shame a group of young girls without knowing the context.

“The teens were on the museum’s app, reading about the paintings,” one user wrote, explaining that the issue was debated “a few years” ago when the picture first went viral.

“And even if they weren’t then so what,” replied another user.

Several criticised Bette Midler for sharing a photograph of teenage girls, presumably without their consent.

Others made larger points about racial and gender inequalities in the art world, including writer Alexandria Bennett, who gave an especially nuanced reading.

The snarkiest takes were those that took Midler’s question literally, criticising the image on an aesthetic level.

Bette Midler has a history of making stupid comments.

Midler has long been considered a gay icon. She began her career performing in a gay bathhouse, and is best-known for starring in camp classics including Hocus Pocus and The First Wives Club.

But any iconic potential she might once have had has been negated in recent years by a series of troublesome remarks.

In August 2016 she was criticised for deadnaming and misgendering Caitlyn Jenner after her docs-series I Am Cait was cancelled.

“Now that @IAmCait has been cancelled will she go back to being [deadname]?” She wrote. “Will Kris take [incorrect pronoun] back? Do I smell a rewedding?”

She later apologised for offending, and called her words “an idle musing”.

In October 2018 the actor was accused of racism after tweeting: “Women are the n-word of the world.”

Subsequently she deleted the tweet and explained that she was paraphrasing a song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Months later, in July 2019, she made a distasteful comment about a group of black people photographed at a Donald Trump rally (she regularly dedicates her time to critiques of the president).

“Look, there are African American men in this shot!,” Midler tweeted. “How much did he pay them to be ‘blackground’?”

More: bette midler, Katya, Twitter, viral

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