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

Bette Midler / three girls on a bench in front of a painting, looking at their phones

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?”

What’s wrong with this picture?

— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) December 8, 2019

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

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“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.

This pic is a few years old and out of context. The teens were on the museum’s app, reading about the paintings. This was clarified when the pic came out before.

— ?pstew? (@pstew129) December 8, 2019

The Met, where this is located, often encourages visitors to download their app which provides virtual museum tours and detailed information about the artwork on display. Many museums do this now.

— ᵣᵢᵥ (@its_weltschmerz) December 9, 2019

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

And even if they weren’t then so what? We need to learn to let people be if they aren’t causing any harm

— Esopiam Aylawb (@RuskiYeti) December 8, 2019

Come on. Seriously? This is literally how “OK, Boomer” was born. Those are young ladies actually at a museum. I was on my phone at the Prado in Madrid learning more about the paintings and artists. I’m glad no one tried to shame me.

— Fred Wellman (@FPWellman) December 8, 2019

there’s a creep in the museum photographing teenage girls to post online without their knowledge or consent

— i bless the rains down in castamere (@Chinchillazllla) December 8, 2019

To nearly two million followers no less

— Helen Kim (@hlnkim) December 8, 2019

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

This is actually an excellent photograph. I would interpret the image as a modern depiction of the subconscious rejection of White standards of beauty, the worship of White femininity and the limitations of White-Euro colonialistic cultural icons in the mind of women of color…

— Caffeinated Living (@WokeLiving) December 8, 2019

…in favor of images and actions of more immediate relevancy.

OR when analyzed from the perspective and commentary of the photographer: the exemplification of hypocrisy in the performative expression of generational ignorance, classism & White Supremacy.

Good capturing, Bette.

— Caffeinated Living (@WokeLiving) December 8, 2019

That 98% of the art hung in that gallery is by men

— mostly festive bee ??⛄? (@soapachu) December 8, 2019

The bench is a metaphor. The 2 little white girls represent white feminism, and showing that even though there’s enough room for all, they still are only going to give the person of color, very little room for comfort

You seemed to be assuming a lot, so I thought I would too lol

— Dewayne Perkins (@DewaynePerkins) December 8, 2019

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

The composition, the perspective. The shadows are too dark, the highlights are too saturated, I would add a bit more saturation. Oh, and I hope you have permission from all the talent and the museum to post this in public? #SarcasmButOnlyHalf Here’s a corrected version.

— Jan Wildeboer (@jwildeboer) December 8, 2019

he left the tag on?

— coffee! coffee! coffee! coffee!?️‍???? (@anoticingsenpa1) December 8, 2019

— Katya (@katya_zamo) December 8, 2019

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’?”

Bette Midler just said On July 24, 2019, that she thinks black men cannot think for themselves but are willing to be bribed. Bette Midler is saying it is all about the Benjamins for black men. She is the definition of a racist.

— Heather Champion (@winningatmylife) July 24, 2019