Priyanka Chopra’s visit to Berlin is being marked by controversy after the actresses committed not one, but two faux pas. Indian sticklers for tradition were livid that Chopra dared to expose her knees and sit cross-legged in front of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s diplomatic visit to Berlin coincided with Chopra’s stop there to promote the new Baywatch movie. The two important figures in Indian culture were able to arrange a meeting — probably on short notice — and a photograph of them sitting together was posted onto Chopra’s official Facebook account. Commenters insisted that she was being disrespectful for not dressing appropriately for the meeting, showing her legs, and crossing them during her time with Modi.
In another incident, Chopra visited the Holocaust Memorial, where over 2,700 concrete slabs commemorate the millions of Jews murdered during the Holocaust. She and her brother Siddharth toured the site in Berlin and made the mistake of taking selfies. As Quartz notes, it’s considered to be distasteful and disrespectful to pose among the monuments. And people definitely took notice. Twitter obviously has some things to say, and Huffington Post India insists that Chopra “should have known better.”
The latter point that Chopra “should know better” was also echoed among some of the critics of her showing a little leg with the prime minister. But is the question whether or not Chopra should know better, or simply that she should do better? Celebrities often find themselves on the receiving end of backlash when their actions or words don’t reflect what we think is right. Even when they have the best intentions — I’m willing to bet that Chopra actually didn’t know that selfies were a no-no at the memorial — we expect celebrities to know all the things that will enable them to act how we want them to act. If you have money and fame, you should also have common sense and know enough to avoid causing offense.
Chopra made an error at the Holocaust Memorial, the same one I could have easily made as someone who has never been. She has yet to respond to the controversy, but it will be her response that dictates what this mistake actually says about her character. When Jennifer Lawrence scratched her butt on some sacred stones and thought it would make a funny story, she revealed an intentional disregard for what the rocks meant to Hawaiian people.
Does Chopra have some explaining to do? Absolutely. And despite the Twitter outrage, she hasn’t committed such a horrible slight that we shouldn’t hear her out.