Last week, LaBeouf's ex-girlfriend FKA twigs sued the actor for alleged abuse.

By Jagger Blaec
Dec 15, 2020 @ 2:00 pm
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How Shia Accounts Are Reacting to the Allegations of Abuse
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I do not personally know Shia LaBeouf, but I was madly in love with him.

In November 2019, I began a burner account on Instagram to express an irrational horniness for the actor. Since then, I have been the social media manager for the stan account known as @shialabeoufthirst, which currently has more than 35,000 followers.

A “thirst account” —  a collection of a celebrity’s best “thirst traps” — was a relatively new concept in 2019. In the bio, I expressed that this is where you would find the “horniest Shia LaBeouf content online.” And because Shia LaBeouf is relatively inactive on social media, I was the plug for everyone who shared my feelings for him. 

On Friday morning, as I prepared for my usual morning post, I woke up to the bold red words "Breaking News" up and down my social media timelines. The New York Times had published an article with the headline, "FKA  twigs Sues Shia LaBeouf Citing 'Relentless' Abusive Relationship." 

I immediately squeezed the temples of my iPhone to screenshot the fuck out of the words my eyes could not believe they just read. The caption I posted beneath the screenshot that day was the furthest thing from thirst: "Breaking: (six eyeball emojis)...I haven't even clicked the link yet but zoomed here as fast as i could. #ShiaLaBeouf".

Shocked and appalled barely captures the unreal feeling of finding out that your absolute fave is being exposed as an allegedly toxic and violent abuser. In reading the report, I found that twigs was accusing him of “relentless abuse,” including sexual battery, assault, the infliction of emotional distress, and knowingly giving her a sexually transmitted disease. It was at that moment I was faced with the decision of whether or not to continue to "stan" my idol and the imaginary LOML.

The captions I had written for SLT were intended to be tongue in cheek. Their overt sexual nature was intentional and felt revolutionary to express as a femme-identifying person. The account attracted thousands of like-minded, sex-positive people of all genders who expressed their solidarity in the comments: “Same.” 

Many of us stans were introduced to Shia LaBeouf when he played Louis Stevens, the goofball youngest sibling on Disney Channel’s Even Stevens in the early ‘00s. We watched his career as he ushered us through puberty in films like Disturbia and the Transformers movie franchise, as his outward appearance evolved from a scraggly little boy into a fine ass Daddy

I referred to the women who followed the page as my sister wives, and like every good group of stans we had a name for ourselves: the #ThirstGang. During quarantine, we built a hilarious community in the comments section, united in our boredom and horniness and love of talking about all things Shia LaBeouf. 

After the 2019 release of Honey Boy, an autobiographical movie written by LaBeouf during his court ordered rehabilitation for his 2017 arrest for public drunkenness in Savannah, Ga., I felt a closeness to him, having had my own relationship with substance abuse, trauma, and mental illness. I saw so many parallels between myself and him, in the sense that he was a person who had fucked up and made mistakes but was committed to growth and honesty. 

Prior to rehab, LaBeouf had been arrested for disorderly conduct multiple times. There was also a video of him in 2015 appearing wasted and threatening to kill his then-wife Mia Goth. LaBeouf even says in the video,"This is the kind of shit that makes a person abusive."

He's last heard in the video telling the driver, "I gotta get out of here, bro. If I'd have stayed there, I would've killed her."

In September of this year, LaBeouf began trending when a viral tweet rehashed this encounter. The tweet read, "ur chances of being killed by shia labeouf are low but never zero". This was a quote from a song called “Shia LaBeouf” by Rob Cantor that went viral in 2014, and currently has upwards of 70 million views. 

Another Twitter user responded to the tweet detailing more allegations of racist and abusive incidents from 2017.

Being a lifelong fan, I had already known about these incidents when they started trending. I take full accountability in dismissing this information and wanting to leave the past in the past. LaBeouf’s first apology seemed sincere and heartfelt. And I regret being willfully naive in response to seeing video evidence that demonstrated his abusive behavior. I believed that the actor was fighting to change based on the many interviews he did while promoting Honey Boy in which he explained his recovery. 

In a post from @shialabeoufthirst, I even reiterated that there was no way for us to know what was going on behind closed doors, but that we needed to believe in the rehabilitation of addicts and people.

I trusted Shia LaBeouf when he said he was trying. 

And the fact that he seemed to be the "bad boy" gone good was a big part of his allure for me. He gave me hope that, unlike the abusive narcissistic exes of my own past, a troubled man could be fixed and healed if only you gave him a chance.

In my mind, he was different, and the hints of his aggressive behavior depicted on- and off-screen translated the fantasy of a sexually uninhibited masculine energy. He also possessed the vulnerability of a man on a healing journey who deeply understood his emotions while possessing a self-awareness that he was a flawed individual. 

But the only place this persona existed was in my mind, and I feel so much shame and disgust in learning just how wrong I was. Much like everyone who stanned alongside me I feel deeply betrayed. The person I had put my faith in has been accused of unspeakable harm. 

Because I believe survivors, I believe FKA twigs (born Tahliah Debrett Barnett), who herself was worried that in speaking up she would not be taken seriously. “I just thought to myself, no one is ever going to believe me,” twigs told the Times. “I’m unconventional. And I’m a person of color who is a female.” I had to take action.

Regardless of a once undying devotion to a celebrity, the moment I read the accusations against this person I made a very immediate decision to deplatform Shia Labeouf from the digital pedestal I had cultivated  for him on Instagram. Deplatforming is a form of political activism used to remove a harmful individual's access to a channel for delivering messages to an audience. I would no longer share Shia LaBeouf images or statements.

The reactions to this decision from IG followers have been mostly positive. Like me, many of the people attracted to LaBeouf have their own stories of physical or emotional abuse. Many of the #ThirstGang agrees that no longer posting LaBeouf content to the grid is the right decision in order to reinforce our support of survivors. 

Since the allegations surfaced last week, the account has dedicated IG stories and highlights to discussing the stigma and reactions associated with this lawsuit and domestic violence. 

People following the account have expressed gratitude for having a place to process the conversations around abuse and to share their grief in giving up someone who sparked so much joy. But there is a collective understanding that deplatforming needs to happen.

But not everyone is on board. One of my followers eloquently replied to a victim-blaming direct message writing, "men are always seen as little broken boys in this light. After reading FKA’S brief but disturbing, article AND being a survivor of an abusive relationship of my own, it’s so obvious she’s telling the truth.” 

She alludes to twigs’s detail of an incident that occurred on Valentine’s Day in 2019, when LaBeouf allegedly threatened to crash the car he was driving and kill them both if she didn’t profess her undying love. They later stopped at a gas station, where LaBeouf threw her up against the car as she tried to retrieve her bags from the trunk, according to the lawsuit. “Everyone that’s been in an abusive relationship has a crazy gas station story. I do. I’m sure a lot of people do. Celebrity or not. Status or not. Thanks for being so transparent about this issue that is hard to hear. after loving Shia for his ‘redemption’ and ‘recovery’ I see now that it was all a con."

A surprising amount of women have DM'd me asking for more tangible evidence of Shia's guilt. I have mostly ignored the requests, explaining that a survivor’s account should be enough.

Some followers have compared the decision to deplatform LaBeouf a perpetuation of "cancel culture," instead of seeing it as a consequence to harmful behavior without accountability. 

I am not throwing LaBeouf away nor is he being cancelled, and in fact I wish that he gets all of the professional rehabilitation that his Even Stevens money can buy. But without any tangible actions toward continued rehabilitation or any follow through on an accountability process, self-awareness of problematic behavior without change begins to feel like manipulation too.

In a statement to the Times, LaBeouf admits his involvement in the harm and abuse. 

“I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel,” he said. “I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.”

He goes on to say “many of these allegations are not true,” but added that he owed the women “the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.”

He added that he is “a sober member of a 12-step program” and in therapy. “I am not cured of my PTSD and alcoholism," he wrote, “but I am committed to doing what I need to do to recover, and I will forever be sorry to the people that I may have harmed along the way.”

twigs’s lawyer disputes this information as false.

I never doubted what FKA twigs was saying, but in an attempt to diminish the unshakable feelings of being gaslit by yet another charming narcissist personality type I embarked on reading all 16 pages of the "Barnett vs LaBeouf" lawsuit. I regretted this decision after being triggered by the disturbing details of every abuse allegation.

The part that hurts the most is that Shia was supposed to be different. He was our imaginary collective boyfriend and a virtual safe space during a really hard year. And in spite of that, the choice to deplatform an alleged abuser remains the best choice I feel I could have made.

My goal is to set an example that we as a community have zero tolerance for abuse, especially towards women and women of color. I will not delete the account but completely abandon the love, admiration, and stanning I once had for Shia LaBeouf in an attempt to demonstrate holding a powerful person who commits harmful actions and behaviors accountable by withdrawing my support. 

In the meantime, I wish healing for everyone involved, especially the women who courageously came forward. For the #thirstgang the grieving process has begun. 

The official memorial for the digital space will take place on IG Live on Dec. 21 at @ShiaLaBeoufThirst. Domestic Abuse survivors will be honored by encouraging followers to donate to @freefromdotorg an organization suggested by survivor Karolyn Pho. 

It is on this day we will collectively mourn our feelings and extend kindness to ourselves.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or chat online at thehotline.org for help.

Jagger Blaec is a writer and founder of @redjaspersocial living in Portland. Their work can be found on IG at @basic.blaec.girl.