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“Emails I Can’t Send”: The Internet Owes Sabrina Carpenter An Apology

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Can you imagine people you’ve never known starting speculating about your relationship? The next thing you know is that they are saying vile things about you and sending you death threats on the internet. It sounds absolutely terrifying and heart wrenching, right? Well, for actress, singer, and songwriter Sabrina Carpenter, that was what happened to her for the past year.

The beginning of the story

If you missed what went down last year, Olivia Rodrigo’s drivers license blew up in large part due to a rumored real-life love triangle the song was reportedly based on. Fans of the singer believed that the song was written about Rodrigo’s HSMTMTS co-star Joshua Bassett, and that 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.” — whom the song insinuates is the girl Bassett began dating after Rodrigo — referenced Sabrina Carpenter. Though all three actors never directly addressed the rumor or love triangle, Bassett and Carpenter were still bombarded by angry fans and with messages on their social media in the immediate aftermath.

Things quickly grew more sour when Sabrina became covered 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 to the world, 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 wished that it didn’t. And if that didn’t happen, they could even be friends. 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 after the single, 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.”

Emails I can’t send

However, now, Carpenter is sharing her side to the story on her new album emails i can’t send, but much more directly on a new track and music video, because i liked a boy– 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 homewrecker, I’m a slut / I got death threats filin’ up semi trucks”, and “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 villain, 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. At the end, the song puts into perspective just how blown-up a highly private affair between three people became, and poses the important question to the listener if any of it was at all worth it.

The harmful implications of being called a “homewrecker” 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 the way she views relationships to this day. The song includes the lyrics “And thanks to you I, I can’t love right / I get nice guys and villainize them” —  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 because i liked a boy, 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, meaning that there was nothing she could do about it.

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. On the second verse, Carpenter seems to allude to Bassett’s heart failure from 2021, further cementing that the track is about the three of them. “I’m not catastrophizing, everything’s derailing/ Was only tryna hold you close while your heart was failing. It’s not internet illusion, just two kids going through it/ You said I’m too late to be your first love, but I’ll always be your favorite.” 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, they just speculated without knowing the story, and started to go after Sabrina and Joshua. 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. But I can tell you that I think I would be devastated!

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. This video clip reveals how easily the internet and public perceptions can negatively affect one’s mental health.

In the video, Sabrina uses the circus to describe how she was feeling during the drama. The theme is very fitting, because much like animals in a circus, she 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 does that— 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 their back 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.

Besides these songs, we have how many things that can also bring references about the whole drama. “ I wonder how many things you think about before you get to me / I wonder how many things you wanna do / You think I’m in between / And I feel myself falling further down your priorities / And I still make excuses for you constantly”. Sabrina was in everyone’s mind after what happened, the song portrays a more vulnerable side of Carpenter by discussing how she feels worthless in the eyes of her lover and the public because they no longer show her any attention.

Overanalyzed it/ Front, back and beside it / Where else can we go? / There’s nothing left here to decode / Done looking for signs in / The gaps and the silence / It’s just gettin’ old / There’s nothing left here to decode.

decode – Sabrina Carpenter

decode is the thirteenth and final track on the album. The song touches on Carpenter’s inability to accept situations that are out of her control. Being hard and blaming herself for the entirety of the situation. This song is a reminder to herself to accept whatever happens in her life as it is. “You are past the point of asking questions and asking Whys and asking Hows. It just is what it is”, said Sabrina in an interview with Rolling Stone.

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. And it’s not up to us to tell what’s right or wrong, it’s their life and not ours! 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. 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 and not with all this hate. And try to remember that everyone’s going through something!

The article above was edited by Juliana Sanches.

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Giullia Cartaxo

Casper Libero '23

A sociable, kind, friendly, little broadcaster with a love for series, movies and the internet.