Another day, another satanic conspiracy theory.
Coach is the latest target of ‘satanic panic’ as the brand is currently being accused by multiple TikTokers of taking part in satanic rituals and promoting child abuse with their Disney Villains collaboration.
The accusations started when creator @hellyquinn posted a video walking through a Coach store and filming the brand’s collaboration, which features teddy bears that look like Disney villains.
In the video, she writes “Add boycotting Coach to the list” and says “I thought this sh!t was over.”
The sh!t Helly is referring to is the Balenciaga scandal that happened late last year. For context, chaos ensued when the brand released its holiday campaign imagery featuring children holding teddy bears that appeared to be dressed in BDSM fetishwear. To make things worse, a separate Balenciaga campaign (in collaboration with Adidas) used a copy of a Supreme Court ruling for a case relating to child pornography as a prop in the campaign.
Helly goes on to insinuate that the Disney x Coach Villains Collection is promoting child pornography, BDSM culture, and satanic rhetoric, similar to Balenciaga. The video has since become unavailable on her account at the time of writing.
Fashion commentary creator @moderngurlz replied to Helly by stitching the video and raising her concern for the “lack of critical thinking on this app,” noting that Coach selling these products is completely different from the Balenciaga campaigns.
“Besides the obvious fact that these bears do not have the same symbolism as the ones that Balenciaga used, the collar that this bear is wearing is literally just a normal pet collar. Balenciaga’s bears were wearing [bondage collars],” she said.
She pointed out that in their campaign imagery, “Coach only used adult models, because adults were the target audience.”
“This video seems very misguided and ‘click-baity’,” she suggested.
The creator also mentions the irony of Helly “filming a random child in the store” for her video while claiming to be worried about these brands exploiting children.
Modern Gurlz urges viewers to “take a step back and think for a second, before alleging something totally ridiculous and honestly really serious.”
Users commented in agreement, with @giulia writing “the internet has gone too far, we’re cancelling teddy bears…. Help!!!”
Another user pointed out that Coach has had many teddy bear collaborations including with Star Wars, Swarovski, and Basquiat.
Despite removing her initial video, Helly made a response video to the criticism she received and doubled down on her accusations that Coach is taking part in Satanism and thanked those who supported her concerns.
“Coach are going to be more subtle [when it comes to] implementing those sort of satanic rituals. They aren’t going to be as obvious as Balenciaga because they have repercussions now. They obviously aren’t going to make the same very open mistake,” she said in the response video.
The concept of “satanic panic” first came into mainstream conversation during the 1980s and early 1990s in America, when people believed that markers of the punk subculture like heavy eyeliner, rock music, and even games like Dungeons and Dragons were hiding satanic messages ready to brainwash the ‘innocent’.
Some historians say this happened because of the financial recession and the feeling of uncertainty that it caused, pushing some people into more conservative behaviours and finding solace in tradition and religion.
As we continue to navigate through the pandemic and enter a new era of a financial recession, it is unsurprising that satanic panic is back. “People are now turning to all kinds of alternative narratives to try and make sense of the chaotic world around them,” writes Günseli Yalcinkaya for Dazed. “This is especially true as distrust in traditional media institutions grows, and TikTok becomes the fastest-growing news source for young people.”
Yalcinkaya points out that the rise of social media in the last decade has allowed satanic panic to fester and make a home in people’s minds. From 2016’s Pizzagate (which claimed that democratic politicians were running a child sex-trafficking ring in the basement of a Washington pizzeria where there actually happens to be no basement), to Addison Rae’s Holy Trinity, conspiracies of Satanism are omnipresent — especially when it comes conspiracies about the elite being in control of such ‘practices’.
“There is some truth underneath all these theories,” writes Yalcinkaya, “There is a powerful group of elites who control the world around us for their own financial gain, for example, but just not in the way many conspiracy theorists would have us believe.”
Focusing on scandalous teddy bears and confronting bikinis may seem like important conversations to have and in the case of Balenciaga, it arguably was. But when presented on an app like TikTok, which has a culture of perpetuating collective hysteria while disregarding context and nuance, it can take away from the actual reality of the issues at hand and the stories of genuine victims.
Ultimately, this constant push to form outlandish conspiracies distracts us from actually holding problematic institutions and powerful individuals accountable.