Coachella: the two weekends that make every person not participating in it ache with yearning. Where our social media feeds are filled with outrageous outfits from our favorite celebrities and influencers, clips of above and beyond performances, and commentary on just how much one would give to be at the acclaimed music festival. It is an event that has seemed to become a staple of our Gen-Z and millennial population.
But, just as things usually turn out to be, everything is not as perfect as it seems.
In 2016, The Washington Post reported, with the help of the Freedom for All Americans campaign, that the festival's founder, Philip Anschutz, is a raging homophobe. As the owner of entertainment conglomerate AEG and with a net worth of approximately $11.1 billion, Anschutz's contributions to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council is no small matter.
These organizations have specific goals to act against the rights of the LGBT community in the name of religion. The Family Research Council, for example, details on their website, "Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects," explaining further that they support legal amendments to prevent homosexuality from advancing in society. The National Christian Foundation was found to donate $56.1 million to various organizations, all identified as hate groups, according to a report from Sludge.
Many of these organizations support conversion therapy and linking pedophilia to homosexuality. Alliance Defending Freedom was one of those organizations, as well, literally labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for supporting recriminalization of homosexuality and state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad.
So, yeah. Not as perfect as we all thought it was.
But then, why do people still pay thousands of dollars for tickets to this music festival when it's just going into the pockets of anti-LGBT organizations, especially if they claim to be LGBT allies? Why do our favorite allied celebrities, including Ariana Grande, choose to perform even though the knowledge of Anschutz's monetary decisions is no secret?
It's not black-and-white. Artists like Mitski admit that walking away from a career-changing venue like Coachella would only damage their career more. Singer Lizzo, just this year, responded to an angry fan's comment, saying that most major organizations are owned by "bigoted millionaires that donate to bigoted organizations," then promising to utilize the platform to tell LGBT stories until she's big enough to dismantle homophobia.
Cara Delevingne, a sexually fluid female, commented on this, saying how she still refuses "to go to a festival that is owned by someone who is anti-LGBT and pro-gun."
What if everyone acted on this mindset? Imagine if all the artists denied the opportunity to perform, or at least the celebrities big enough to afford it. Imagine if all of the influencers who claim LGBT+ solidarity actually acted on their words and refused to show to this festival and every other one AEG owned? Where would Anschutz get his millions to fund homophobia, then?
In response to all of the controversy, Anschutz and his organization swore that he "supports the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation" and would stop donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations. But still, he continued to donate to Super PACs and conservative politicians whose standpoints include opposition of same-sex marriage, pro-life and pro-gun initiatives.
What are we saying as a society as we continue to glamorize this festival and allow it to profit? Sure, deem this article and the protests of the LGBT+ community as sour-graping something fun and "turning everything liberal." But the reality is that this festival is profiting off of liberally outspoken artists, even including gay stars like James Charles, and the money is, paradoxically, being put in support of anti-LGBT initiatives, along with pro-gun and pro-life causes. Not only is the reality of this alarming, as it is currently the biggest music festival and profits are undoubtedly high, but also offers insight on the already known fallacy of our culture.
People, celebrities and influencers especially, will continue to advocate for liberal views and for the equality of those who are oppressed when it is convenient for them — when it will gain them clout and fans. But when they want to go to a music festival that essentially flexes that clout, their alliance with LGBT+ people and others affected by these conservative views seems to be forgotten.
The cure to all of this is awareness. It's important to continue to educate others on how we can better support those who face oppression daily. It's important to hold people accountable, especially when they have the power to influence an entire society. It's important to denounce homophobic people, and avoid contributing to their success.
And if you are planning on spending your paychecks on next weekend or next year's Coachella... you might want to think again.