Political polarization in the U.S. has deeply affected the way we discuss politics and interact with one another. This divide is evident not only in news and among everyday citizens, but also in the entertainment industry.
But instead of denying celebrities the right to speak publicly about politics or issues of concern because of their fame, allowing them to spread positive ideas is important for national dialogue.
With more celebrities speaking up in favor of liberal candidates and issues, conservative news outlets like Breitbart and Conservative Post have been dismissing their political comments by using the term “Hollywood elite”–as opposed to “hard-working American people,” according to Refinery29.
On the other hand, with the anger toward President Donald Trump rising, conservatives in Hollywood are also facing severe backlash for their political views. The movement to silence celebrity input on politics, on both sides of the political spectrum, is not productive in the long run.
Hollywood’s political history dates all the way back to its early beginnings. For example, Charlie Chaplin used his films to directly express his political views to his audience, along with the folk music revival in the 60s and 70s that expressed the dissatisfaction with the establishment, called “Political Folk,” according to allmusic.com
In the 1920s, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Louis B. Mayer, worked with Republicans by educating them on how to use film, radio and movie stars to their advantage, bringing Hollywood and politics together for the first time, according to the Huffington Post.
Companies today continue to lobby the government to push for legislations that would benefit their businesses. If Hollywood is criticized for their involvement in the government, then other entities involved should be criticized as well.
Those who are against the “Hollywood elite” urge celebrities to stick with entertaining rather than speaking out on issues that would not affect them because of their status. However, arts and entertainment have always been used as a means of social and political commentary.
Art, in all forms, is an integral part of understanding society throughout human history and provides social commentary on those times. Art pieces such as Picasso’s Guernica and Banksy’s Walled off Hotel are politically driven and shed light on contemporary social ills.
Celebrities have the opportunity to bring attention to issues that may not receive the coverage needed to mobilize support. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey, who all came from humble beginnings, are just a few celebrities that are able to speak to that experience.
Recently, Ashton Kutcher testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the steps to eradicate modern slavery. Kutcher referred to his acting career as his ‘day job’ and credited his status as the reason he is able to shed light on the issue and help.
Even Youtube stars are using their wide audience and influence to talk about political and social issues. Youtuber Jerome Jarre posted a short video across his social media accounts to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis in East Africa, coining the hashtag, #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia, which went viral.
Thanks to the attention and awareness brought to the subject, Turkish airlines to agreed to send supplies like food and water to devastated areas.
It is easy to forget that, despite their status and privilege, celebrities are still citizens of the United States of America. They have the same rights as non-celebrities, and they too are affected by new policies. If a celebrity chooses to use their platform to speak out on social and political issues, they should be able to do so.
After all, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump were celebrities, too.