Celebrities have always been a vocal presence on the political scene and, indeed, now more than ever the line between politics and entertainment have blurred. A WWF wrestler was elected governor and so was the Terminator. People look to The Daily Show for their political coverage, The View becomes one of the few programs to ask the questions nobody else will, David Letterman calls out John McCain for his snub, etc. But what always manages to amaze me is that when celebrities step up to voice their opinion, a large portion of the country is scornful, saying, “Oh, just shut up. I don’t need political chatter from YOU, just make your movies.”
I mean, I would understand if it was, say, a bunch of Canadian actors or European ones (I love you, Daniel Craig, but let’s hope I never hear you tell me to vote Obama or McCain), because what direct stake do THEY have in our current political climate? (Actually, in that vein, I guess Iranian actors and Russian ones would totally have the right to weigh in on our politics, wouldn’t they?) But it’s mostly ire directed towards actors, actresses, musicians, and other extraneous celebrities who are from the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Well, I think it’s safe to assume it’s primarily because they’re Liberals. Your Matt Damons of the world going off on Sarah Palin draws more fire than, say, Ahnold the Governator, Jesse The Body, or the late Charlton Heston, the former head of the NRA. Then again, would you really argue with two guys who can break you in half and a guy who’s packing heat? It’s much easier to dismiss the opinions of an Ivy League educated upstart like Damon (one of those insidious East Coast elitists!), who supposedly doesn’t represent Middle America. Of course Hollywood is going to be peopled with Liberals, with pseudo-intellectuals, with minorities and crazy people with the morals of alley cats. Gasp.
But I would venture to say it’s not just about the Right vs. the Left. It’s also about the fact that when people entertain for a living, a large portion of their audience thinks that’s all they should do. It’s sort of like thinking your 4th grade teacher lives at school and being shocked when you see her at the grocery store. What are YOU doing here? Just stand there and look pretty; hit your marks and say your lines, don’t you dare go off script. You can’t have an opinion about anything that isn’t your TV show/your latest film/your Prada handbag, because that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here to make us laugh or write a good song; you’re here to make us think but not too hard.
That’s why I was glad to see Jackson Browne and Heart both step up and criticize the McCain campaign using their music without permission. It was absolutely necessary. Because it’s so easy to dismiss these artists and their product, co-opt it for Sarah Palin or an attack ad, without recognizing the fact that there is a person who sang that song that might have their own set of beliefs — not to mention basic ownership of the piece of music. You can’t just gloss over that.
But people tend to, because there’s also the argument that actors are rich and glamourous and can’t possibly relate to the plight of the common man. Celebs aren’t real. Why would somebody with a house in Malibu, a driver, and a shelf for their Oscars have any “real” problems? They can afford to throw their support behind whoever they want! They can use their power and influence and visibility to push their political agenda! That’s not fair! To which I say, “Oh, please.” You can bet your sweet ass that nobody in the House, the Senate, or the White House is in the same tax bracket as I am, and yet there THEY are making decisions that impact my life.
Everybody has a stake in this upcoming election.
Everybody should use their voice and their vote.
Yes, even Lindsay Lohan.