Time and time again, fans are left heartbroken when they hear news of their favorite performer publicly attacking a political issue. While it may be true that a lot of people generally don’t care what a random celebrity thinks about politics, it’s also true that the fans do take the opinions of the artist they admire and adore to heart. Overwhelmingly, the fans are the ones who suffer the most because they’re the ones who will have the most difficult time enjoying the work of the celebrities they adore.
Let’s say you’re taking your grandma out for brunch to celebrate her birthday. You choose a fancy establishment because a birthday is once a year, so you figure, why not? It isn’t like your grandma is getting any younger, and you want this occasion to be perfect. Wanting to look fab for the pictures, both of you got a fresh new hairdo with cute highlights to boot. How then would you feel if the owner of the restaurant came out and gave you both a lecture about the health hazards of coloring your hair while he’s serving up the mimosas?
Because this is how celebrities sound when they go on about their unwanted political opinions. Not only is their activism unwelcome, but it’s also exhausting to the fans who just want to focus on enjoying the talent of their favorite performing artist.
Inappropriate Alienation of Fans
Look, this needs to be said. America is a classless society. And because America is a classless society, celebrities are individuals just like you and me. As such, they're subject to the same kind of judgment for their conduct like every other individual here in America. If we know how inappropriate it was for the owner of the restaurant to lecture your grandmother about dying her hair, then the same standards should apply to celebrities.
Grandma didn't sign up to be lectured about her hairdo - she just wanted to celebrate her birthday with some unlimited mimosas. Getting reprimanded for her life choices during her celebratory brunch is inappropriate anyway you bend it. And yet, that is how celebrities operate when they constantly throw their politics in our face.
So when Taylor Swift made a statement on Miss Americana about how disappointed she was at the defeat of a politician she supported, she is, by extension, putting a downer on her fans who had voted against her political position. The fans who love her but disagreed with her politics felt like they had betrayed someone they admired and loved.
Celebrity Bully Pulpit
As we are aware, celebrities not only use their platform to grab our attention, but they also use it to persuade and manipulate the behavior of their fans and to shape opinions. Trouble is, since these celebrities have a pulpit to voice their opinion, fans with differing views will inadvertently be bullied into silence.
Celebrities exploiting their platform is very problematic for society as a whole. Art and entertainment used to be a unifying force in society. People who may have differed in their personal values could still relate to each other because of their mutual love for the music, movies, or shows enjoyed by both sides.
Celebrities exploiting their platform is very problematic for society as a whole.
A healthy society is made up of friendly and open, honest discourse. The more we alienate a group of people, the less likely they are to engage in any mutually beneficial discussions with other groups. One of the best things a celebrity can do with their platform is to bring people together. This way, everyone can engage in civil discourse and understand each other.
A Time and a Place for Everything
There’s a time and a place for activism. But on stage at the Oscars, for example, is neither the time nor the place for it. Which was why it was so bizarre for everyone to watch Joaquin Phoenix give that statement about humanity’s war against the cows during his acceptance speech for Best Actor.
Here’s a thought experiment to understand this better. Imagine yourself as a plumber attending a national plumbing convention. One of the main events is the awards ceremony for the Plumber of the Year.
Announcer: And the award for Plumber of the Year goes to … “Bob the Plumber”!
Bob: Thank you to the National Plumbing Association for this award. It is an honor. First off, I want to say, pineapples on pizza is a travesty. It’s wrong to put fruit on meat and cheese. You should be ashamed of yourself for putting pineapples on pizza.
This is basically what Joaquin Phoenix sounded like when he was protesting the artificial insemination of cows during his acceptance speech at the Oscars. While the topic he addressed may be different (his promotion of veganism), the outcome is similar to plumber Bob’s outcry, in that everyone who disagreed with the message felt embarrassed, awkward, and attacked.
There’s a time and place for activism. But on stage at the Oscars, for example, is neither the time nor the place for it.
You as a plumber attended the awards ceremony to celebrate the industry of plumbing. You didn’t expect to be shamed for your taste in pizza. Similarly, people watch the Academy Awards to celebrate the movie-making industry and to appreciate the artistry of the thespian. We don’t watch the awards so we can be condemned and shamed for our views.
A Better Model for Celebrityhood
Perhaps celebs like Taylor and Joaquin can take a page from Dolly Parton, who stays out of politics on principle. Her focus has always been to be an entertainer first and foremost and to put joy in the heart of her fans. No doubt it's the reason why Dolly Parton still has a healthy career today and has a net worth of over half a billion dollars. Meanwhile, her contemporaries (like Madonna) struggle to stay relevant by venturing into the world of political activism.
But celebs really don't have to be political in order to remain relevant. They have the gift of talent which accords them the power to make the world a happier place. There is a funny quote about how "politics is show business for ugly people.” Perhaps the saying could also mean that venturing into politics turns those in show business into ugly people.
Celebs really don't have to be political in order to remain relevant. They have the gift of talent which accords them the power to make the world a happier place.
When I brought my Gran to that restaurant for brunch, I just wanted us to have fun together as we enjoyed some pastries and mimosas for her birthday. We weren’t looking to receive a sermon from the restaurant owner on why it was bad for us to dye our hair. Likewise, when we're enjoying the work of a performance artist, we just want to be entertained. And it’s always preferable to keep unsolicited political opinions out of entertainment because otherwise celebrities become tedious to deal with.