It’s over. Done. The foggy, non-argument, group think, appeal to authority spell that was the Hollywood celebrity influence over politics has been lifted! Many celebrities are just now waking up to this reality; I’m afraid, still many more haven’t even considered it as a possibility.
It’s no secret that marketers tie their products to famous people to drive sales. Celebrities have been proven to deliver a perception of an unbiased endorsement that the target audience wouldn’t receive from the producer directly.
Politics is a different type of sale. Politicians, special interests, and the latest cause célèbres have relished in the attachment of their message to celebrities. Just one problem, the American people are no longer buying it.
A majority of Americans (49% to 46%) surveyed believe that “celebrities should stay out of politics” all together according to a CBS News/New York Times poll. Additionally, Gallup found that nearly two thirds (64%) say celebrities have little, if any, influence on Washington decision-makers. Even the successful Trump campaign when approached about the subject stated that it “wasn’t all that interested in peddling celebrity backers.”
In order to win an election, politicians must drive new voters to the polls, and these days, those new voters are the coveted millennials. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, millennials differ “from the youth of the two previous generations, parents have considerable influence on Millennial’s political views,” and “celebrities ranked as having minimal or least influence.” Celebrity Studies concurred finding that millennials “are more likely to listen to individuals other than celebrities for their own political information.” So why then are there so many synthetic, celebrity compilation videos delivering these unified political messages?
With an ever increasing, often conflicting, presence of online stories vying for our validation, the only rational approach is one of skepticism. Celebrities are used with the intent to melt away this hard coated skeptical shell allowing the political message to seep in. And the 2016 election cycle, like many election cycles before it, was no different when it comes to celebrity political outreach.
Leading up to Tuesday, November 8, 2016—Election Day—everyone’s favorite celebrities left no doubt what their adoring fans were to do….vote! They even joked about the absurdity of their request by saying the only way to communicate the importance of our vote is by having “a shit ton of famous people repeat[ing] how important it is to register and vote.”
We didn’t listen. Insert one Donald Trump into the presidency.
The strategy failed. But despite this fact, in true social justice fashion, what did the celebrities do? They doubled down of course—well, kind of—this time they could only scrounge up a group of C list celebrities (and Martin Sheen) to virtue signal for all of the internet to see. Rhetoric level elevated to: ‘No Longer Joking Level!‘ The celebrities pleaded with the electoral college members by beginning, “as you know, our Founding Fathers, built the electoral college to safeguard us against a demagogue, and to ensure that the presidency only goes to someone who is ‘to an eminent degree, endowed with the requisite qualifications.’”
The electoral college didn’t listen either.
Wow! Ok. How dense is America? These once-valiant celebrities are pouring their hearts out on screen, reading scripted line after scripted line, without even the possibility of winning an Oscar, only to find their words ignored. Rhetoric level now elevated to: ‘Dire Warning, Name Calling Level!‘ Weeks before Trump’s inauguration day, celebrities pleaded with Congress much the same professing that the “majority of Americans-regardless of who they voted for-did not vote for: racism, sexism, or for xenophobia. Yet, Donald Trump won.”
Will Congress listen to their vapid, unspecified, ad hominems?
Current trends indicate that the celebrity slack-tivism is an utter failure. In fact, so much so, that these political celebrity endorsements have become a negative asset, sinking the very cause they wish to enact. Still many celebrities are blind to the damage caused by their incessant badgering of Americans.
This fact didn’t stop Meryl Streep though. She took to the stage during the recent Golden Globes and began her speech by casting her and the audience of Hollywood celebrities, as “the most vilified segments in American society right now.” Though she has correctly identified that average Americans find her like distasteful, she still framed herself as the victim. “Vilified??”
Despite lessons remaining unlearned by many celebrities, there are some rays of hope escaping the toxic, smug infested hills of Hollywood. Some celebrities have read the writing on the wall and witnessed the glaring hypocrisy of many of their cohorts, and they have begun to speak out against it.
Randy Quaid, in an open letter to Meryl Streep, stated “…The reason you’re heartbroken is because you and many other celebrities who share your beliefs realized on November 8th that the corporate media agenda has failed you and you failed it.”
Norm Macdonald tweeted his opposition to Streep’s pretentious elevation of ‘the art’ of acting over other entertainment professions like MMA and football.
Even Mark Wahlberg in December of 2016, when asked for comment on celebrities in politics said, “A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn’t…You know, it just goes to show you that people aren’t listening to that anyway,” he continued. “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.”
Celebrities on the left will continue to refuse to humble themselves and perform the necessary self-reflection in order to become an influential voice. In the meantime, the rest of America, working to put food on the table, will continue to sift past the garbage of celebrity politicking, and fill themselves on the aspects of America that truly makes her great.