Power comes in many different forms in our society. World leaders, business tycoons, headmasters, legislators- all hold significant influence over our lives and how we live them. But there’s another category many tend to miss when contemplating who calls the shots this day and age.
Celebrities. Actors, singers, socialites, even social media ‘influencers- all have massive impact on our lives from a day to day business. Think Zayn Malik causing over 480 calls from employees to one business, seeking compassionate leave after he’d quit the band. Or how crazy the internet went after Kim Kardashian donned her birthday suit for Paper magazine, gifting us all with a picture of her perfect bum. Whether you hate them or love them, you can’t deny this- whatever celebrities doing, 90% of us are paying attention.
This brings up an argument over the reach of celebrities- while they seemingly find their way into almost parts of our lives, should’ve they have a say in political matters?
Actors themselves have conflicting opinions. Established celebrities like Martin Freeman and Mark Wahlberg have openly stated how celebrities should stay mum when it comes to making comments on world affairs.
“A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn’t [talk politics],” Wahlberg told Task and Purpose magazine, explaining that A-listers shouldn’t comment as they cannot relate to the plight of the everyday man. “They might buy your CD or watch your movie, but you don’t put food on their table. You don’t pay their bills. A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family.”
Wahlberg brings up an important point. Celebrities experience an undeniably privileged life that less than 1% of us will every be able to relate to. While many of us worry about paying our college debts, paying the bills, and working menial jobs just to get by, the rich and famous debate over what movie script to sign onto, which rapper to feature on their next song, and what designer to adorn at the next award show. But despite this disconnect between our day-to-day life experiences, we all share a fundamental commonality- all of us are very much human. We answer to the law, abide the rules of society, and are subject to the same human experience under the hands of politicians.
For this very reason, I believe it is the duty of celebrities to talk about politics. America is at the height of it’s age of media. In an era of fake news and Twitter, the majority of us receive our information not from newspapers, but word of mouth, or Twitter moments. Celebrities are at the top of the food chain in the hierarchy of social media. With such utter control over the conversations conducted on the Internet, it is foolish for them to avoid issues and conflicts affecting the very real lives of those who look up to them.
With the large platforms awarded to those ‘blessed’ with fame, celebrities are afforded the unique opportunity to truly make a difference for their audience and to be a good influence. Think Rowan Blanchard, Amandla Stenberg, Beyonce,Shia Laboeuf- all have extended their resumes outside of Hollywood to being vocal activists fighting the good fight. If you’re given such a large audience, why not use it to talk about something other than who you’re wearing on the red carpet tonight?
In an interview with Teen Vogue, Lauren Jauregui perfectly articulates the importance of using your platform.
“I can’t be quiet. I can’t,” she said. “If I was given a platform where 3.8 million people are going to read what I say, I’m going to say it. I’m going to say it loud as f*ck. I’m going to make sure people understand that this is not a joke. This is not something we can ignore. It’s not something we can just let pass by. This is something we have to be passionate and active about daily.”
Being passionate and active is whats directly caused the influx of political interest in our youth- I speak from personal experience. While politics have always interested me, people like Amandla posting non-stop about their political views are what encouraged me to educate myself on the issues of our day and age and have caused me to join the conversation on equality. People like me are the success stories resulting from celebrity activism.
And it’s naive to believe celebrities don’t deserve the right to have an opinion. Many of them have identities intricately weaved into the problems tearing apart the fabric of our country. Jauregui, as a Latina woman, is a direct victim of sexist and racist actions sweeping America like a plague. Laboeuf as a Jewish man just recently faced harassment targeting his faith. Beyonce as a black woman was attacked for celebrating her pregnancy (a clear attack against black motherhood), despite previously struggling with miscarriages. Stenberg, just a pre-teen when Hunger Games was filmed, faced death threats for being a black actress chosen to play a character some audience members imagined as white (despite Rue being specified as African American in the novel).
Yes, it’s annoying when celebrities tout political opinions they’ve clearly never researched just for the sake of being relevant, or only when it directly involves them- like Taylor Swift keeping mum about the election of 2016 and Donald Trump’s misogyny, yet calling on feminism and girl power to heighten her own popularity, or Gigi Hadid only claiming her Palestinian ancestry when she’s called racist. But for every Gigi and Taylor, there’s a Viola Davis or a Jaden Smith- powerful celebrities using their voices to address discrimination against marginalized groups. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to speak? If you’ve done your research and you’ve got something to say, why can’t you?
Life is not just partying in Puerto Rico and going to pow-wows with a Hadid in Paris. Life is refugees getting detained at airports, being robbed of health care, journalists targeted for their freedom of speech. Even famous people live in the reality where those things can happen and are happening and, quoting Lauren Jauregui, “at the end of the day, your passion is so much more beautiful than indifference.”