This year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards got political, and it’s not the first time
Meryl Streep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kanye West, Azealia Banks… Celebs have been piping up about the state of the world more than usual since Trump’s win. Should they really be using their platform to talk politics?
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards – where rather than letting any pesky panels or polls get in the way, actors tell other actors who they liked best – made more headlines than usual this year.
It’s not the first time celebrities have used their platform to send a political message. Marlon Brando went all out in 1973, sending Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American woman, to accept an Oscar for The Godfather on his behalf.
To some – Piers Morgan, for one – celebs are starting to get a bit cheeky with their access to a mic. “It’s an award ceremony, not a chance for you to be Martin Luther King,” he said in a recent television interview.
Being a celebrity is about as public a job as it gets – and the more people know you, the more you get paid. But the service we’re buying from celebrities when we pay our movie tickets and invest in their art is entertainment, not political consulting. Celebrities talking about politics is like your hairdresser giving you career tips or your estate agent giving you relationship advice – sure, they’ve got opinions about it, but they’re not why you hired them, right?
Then again, when celebrities talk, people seem to listen...
We might not have hired them to give us political advice, but we tend to trust people we identify with – and if there’s one thing everyone was talking about in 2016, it was the fact that people don’t trust political and economic experts anymore. So sure, maybe we didn’t hire them for their political expertise: but the people we did hire don’t seem to be doing so good either.
Plus: it’s not like we give celebrities much privacy in the rest of their off-screen lives. Where they live, what they wear, what they eat, who they’re dating, what gym they go to is seen as information that’s up for grabs for countless magazines, shows, and YouTube personalities to create a business model out of.
And from George Clooney’s Nespresso campaign, to Shell’s ‘Make The Future’ video enlisting everyone from Jennifer Hudson to Pixie Lott it seems like celebrities promoting business is part of the package of fame too. So why not politics?
But to a lot of people, Hollywood doesn’t exactly represent the vilified or the oppressed: it represents the elite, working on six, seven, eight figure salaries, living in mansions in LA, and jetsetting across the globe. In a poll of 900 Trump supporters, most felt celebrity endorsements only strengthened their political views against ‘the establishment’.
It comes down to whether people living completely different economic experiences can really get to grips with each other’s perspective on the world around them – and whether we want to hear it.