Clint Eastwood did it. Eva Longoria got into the spirit. Jon Voight, George Clooney, Chuck Norris, Scarlett Johansson, Victoria Jackson, and Kerry Washington are guilty as charged, as well. As the countdown to Election 2012 is becomes increasingly down to wire (54 days to be precise), Americans are reminded on an almost continuous hourly basis on the grave importance of voting in this year’s pivotal presidential election, but perhaps none more so than by Tinseltown’s most outspoken stars. The question is – should Hollywood’s most famous stars contribute to the political dialogue, or simply keep their perfectly-aligned mouths’ shut?
Since the early 21st century, celebrities have been endorsing national political candidates of their choice whether through private donations, localized fundraising campaign efforts, and, perhaps most prevalently, personal expression of public support through mass medium outlets. It should be clearly noted that I’m certainly not suggesting that stars and starlets aren’t entitled to have well-formulated opinions on the general election candidates (in this case, Democrat incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney) and those candidates’ policy-making approaches – that assumption is outrageously absurd. However, whether a celebrity is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, a self-ticketed Independent or Libertarian, or a member of the Tea Party or Green Party, I can’t help but find myself playing the role of culture warrior in direct response to the growing number of celebrities who have aggressively and actively thrust his or her own political platform with shameless publicity and self-promotion in mind. Madonna, here’s looking at you – Senator John McCain is not Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Any suggestive parallel between the former POW and the repressive human rights leader is outlandish. Chuck Norris, I hate to break it to you, but while President Obama is a heavily influential political figure, he is not nearly mighty enough to cause an apocalyptic adventure by his own self accord in this lifetime. Honestly, how foolish can one be?
Due to the progressive ideology nature of the Hollywood scene, a supple majority of movie stars have openly identified themselves as liberals. In fact, closeted conservatives who have openly come out of the closet and endorsed Republican candidates have not only been mocked by their fellow peers, but they also run the risk of being blacklisted by major studios consequentially as of a result of their specific party stance. No matter the case, it’s evident that entering the threshold between the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown and the nitty-gritty realm of politics is a war zone that celebrities should proceed with extreme caution. Interestingly enough, this concept is reflected in this year’s unconventional election. In comparison to the 2008 presidential race, President Obama’s A-list Hollywood support is not quite as noticeable, at least in terms of presence at the Democratic National Convention. Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University’s pop culture center, suggests that this separation is perhaps self-intentional. Thereby, is always the right move for entertainers to delve into the political sphere, and conversely, is it wise for candidates to openly accept their bold endorsement?
Simply put, standing on a soapbox with a megaphone will not open up a two-way communication conversation between you and your key constituents; in fact, it will serve a conversely defeatist purpose. More often than not, celebrities who opt to utilize this strategy in a failed effort to gain public support are often left with a perceived social image problem due in part to a lack-of credibility based upon the absence of a sustainable political biography. Furthermore, the non-existence of well-researched and thoughtful knowledge of the pertinent issues facing our country’s imminent future coupled with negligent assertions only fuels an unflattering public perception image in the minds’ of wavering fans. Take it from me, La La Land, you don’t want to isolate your fan base, particularly when it can be completely avoided at all costs.
Legendary film actor Clint Eastwood’s surprise appearance at this year’s Republican National Convention and his infamous “Empty Chair” speech that subsequently followed is only one primary illustration of why the integration of celebrity culture in the political sector is dangerous. While his performance has been hailed as original and provocative by fans and lauded by critics (not to mention his follow Hollywood liberal peers) as pure insanity, the truth of the matter is that when the social dialogue between voters is domineered by what a particular entertainer said rather than the candidate, a skewed reality exists. Elections should be focused on the candidates, his or her respective political platform, and the campaign messaging, not on over-the-top Hollywood spectacles such as media conglomerate Oprah Winfrey’s overzealous tactics at endorsing then-presidential hopeful Obama throughout 2007 and 2008. In essence, newsworthy media coverage should be focused on the politicians running for office, not concentrated on celebrities with zero political background or experience pushing a one-sided agenda to undecided voters across the country.
Do you believe that high-powered individuals in the entertainment industry possess a liberating freedom to openly impose his or her political beliefs on the general American public? Should these public icons have an inherent right to endorse his or her favorite candidate by unrestricted means despite the potentially harmful PR effects? Ultimately, the question remains – do Hollywood and politics mix, or should actors, musicians, comedians, and athletes stick to what they know best – solely entertaining mass audiences?