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Does The Internet Owe Sabrina Carpenter An Apology?

Imagine speculation comes out about your relationship and the next thing you know people you’ve never met on the internet are saying vile things about you and sending you death threats. It sounds absolutely terrifying and heart wrenching, doesn’t it? Well, for actress, singer, and songwriter Sabrina Carpenter, that was her reality for the past year. 

Upon the release and popularity of Olivia Rodrigo’s song “driver’s license,” people began to pay special attention to the lyrics, “You’re probably with that blonde girl / Who always made me doubt / She’s so much older than me / She’s everything I’m insecure about.” From there, people made assumptions as to who the song was about, and fingers were quickly pointed at Sabrina and Joshua Bassett. Things quickly grew more sour when Sabrina became bombarded with hate — from people harassing her on Twitter to even being called a “bastard” on television.

As a result of the hate and wanting to set the record straight from her perspective, Sabrina released her song  “Skin” in January 2021. She made clear in a social media post following the song’s release that she had no hate towards Olivia, but rather that despite her tough facade, the drama did get to her even when she wishes that it didn’t. She also said in the post that it wasn’t just one situation that triggered these feelings, but that she “was at a tipping point in [her] life for countless reasons.” 

But despite Sabrina’s plea for help, the hate raged on for months. On her 22nd birthday, Sabrina’s comment section on one of her posts was even flooded with lyrics of Olivia’s songs. How would you feel if it was your birthday and you couldn’t even enjoy it because people on the internet were tearing you down all because of who you were dating? A week later, Sabrina posted a tearful video on her Instagram story, saying, “I’m not sure at what point in my career I’m supposed to get on Instagram Live and cry, but I feel like I’m getting pretty close… I guess this is just my weird reminder to be kind to people and to take it easy on each other because we’re all going through things no one knows about and it’s really hard to not overthink everything. Being nice to each other makes it a little easier.” 

Recently, Sabrina released her newest album emails i can’t send, and with it, the music video for “because i liked a boy.” The album, the song, and the music video shed more light on Sabrina’s view of all the public drama in the past year and a half. The song includes heartbreaking lyrics like, “Now I’m a home wrecker, I’m a slut / I got death threats filin’ up semitrucks,” as well as, “I’m a rebound gettin’ ‘round stealin’ from the young.” These lyrics are in reference to much of the hate she received from those on the internet calling her a home wrecker and slut, as well as those who said that she was too old to be engaging in the drama or that she was cruel for dating Joshua after his breakup with Olivia. 

The harmful implications of being called a “home wrecker” run even deeper for Sabrina when you listen to the title track, “emails i can’t send,” which shows how her father’s infidelity influenced how she views relationships to this day. The bridge of the song includes the lyrics, “Dating boys with exes / No, I wouldn’t recommend it.” It’s only natural to date someone that has had exes, and it’s unlikely for someone to only date one person their entire life —  however, for Sabrina, the whole situation involving Olivia and Joshua has been so devastating for her that she doesn’t want anyone to go through what she did. The chorus of the song continues, “Tell me who I am, guess I don’t have a choice.” For Sabrina at the time of the drama, it didn’t matter what she said or did, because people were always going to tell her who she was and have their own opinions on her and there was nothing that she could do about it. 

Another lyric that shed light on the whole situation in a completely different way was, “When everything went down, we’d already broken up,” revealing that the internet really knew nothing about the timeline nor the situation as a whole. Personally, I don’t know how I would have stayed calm and civil if people were hating on me because of someone I had broken up with months prior and wasn’t even dating anymore. 

The music video for “because i liked a boy” is a beautiful visual representation of what was going on for Sabrina mentally this past year and how it all eventually took a toll on her. Similar to Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, Sabrina’s music video reveals how easily the internet and public perceptions can negatively affect one’s mental health. 

In the video, Sabrina uses the motif of being in a circus to describe how she was feeling during the drama. The theme is very fitting, because much like animals in a circus, Sabrina felt trapped for other people’s entertainment at the time. Dressed like a performer, Sabrina dances around the circus and playfully approaches a tiger. However, when she approaches the tiger — which could represent the internet — the tiger lashes out at her and chases her. Posters pop up appearing like headlines, with sayings like, “Escaped tiger throws circus into a frenzy!,” “Who is at fault?” and “She wows them and wrecks them!” — all similar to the headlines that swarmed the internet following Sour’s release.

As the video continues, Sabrina tries to rejoin her fellow circus members, but they turn her away, perhaps representing the fans that turned away from her due to the drama. Another scene includes Sabrina dressed in a black dress with a black and white spinning wheel behind her with knives on it. Just like that, the public used their words to hurl “daggers” at Sabrina and try to hurt her, but ultimately they failed. When the mirrors smash around her, it possibly represents how everyone’s comments have “smashed” how she views herself and her self-esteem. 

“because i liked a boy” and “emails i can’t send” are proof that no one really knows what goes on in the lives of celebrities and that there are multiple sides to every story. Over the past year and a half, Sabrina has received so much cruelty and hate — all because she liked a boy. It’s unfair to constantly bash on someone — celebrity or not — just because they happened to get into a relationship with someone else, and you wouldn’t like it if you were in the same position and just trying to live your life. Needless to say, the internet owes Sabrina a huge apology and should do so by approaching her new music with an open mind. 

Born and raised in Arizona, Kayleigh Shaw is a Her Campus National Writer. She mainly writes for the Culture section, primarily focused on the latest entertainment news, but will occasionally write about life and career, giving advice to a wide array of readers. Outside of Her Campus, Kayleigh was also a part of Rod Pulido’s Street Team for his debut novel, Chasing Pacquiao and completed social media challenges to promote the book. She also hopes to one day write for Screen Rant and Comic Book Resources. where she will continue to use her love of all things pop culture to her advantage. She also graduated from Glendale Community College in May 2022 with an Associate's Degree in English. When Kayleigh's not working on journalism pieces, she can be found writing poems and short stories, reading, watching TikToks, listening to their favorite podcasts, listening and dancing to Sabrina Carpenter and Taylor Swift, watching movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu (while crying over fictional characters and relationships.) She would live in a library and avoid the rest of the world if she could. She also drinks coffee like a Gilmore and often goes down rabbit holes researching their hyper fixations.