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Celebrity Effect in Politics

Get involved or stay out of it?

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WHAT IT IS

  • "Celebrity politics" is becoming a popular term. 

  • Many celebrities have been increasingly vocal about political issues, to either support to protest a certain issue or political leader.

  • Celebrities voicing political opinions is nothing new and is not unique to the United States.

  • Some celebrities, like Oprah, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Kid Rock, have made public statements on considering running for office. 
  • Several celebrities throughout history have made the transition to politics. 
  • Notable examples: President Ronald Reagan, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Donald Trump [Business Insider] Each political career can be interpreted as successful or not.

WHY IT MATTERS

 

CIVICS: The First Amendment of the U.S Constitution protects celebrities. They are allowed to demonstrate free speech and publicly express their opinions, valid or not.

 

SOCIAL: A divide in public opinion has risen, with some praising their efforts and others expressing a belief that celebrities should stay out of political matters.

 

Because of their widespread recognition, celebrities leverage a significant amount of power by expressing their political opinions to their fan base.  Their omnipresent celebrity status should make us think about the effect of their beliefs and where it fits into the political discussion.

GET INVOLVED

Use your platform

The influence celebrities carry can legitimize issues and bring them to the forefront in national political conversations. [The Atlantic]

 

One example is Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reed protesting the national anthem at NFL games to support the #blacklivesmatter movement and call attention to police brutality and racial injustice. [Aljazeera]

 

 

Positive impact

Rock the Vote was founded by an entertainment mogul and relies primarily on the entertainment industry to help register the youth to vote.

 

Leonardo DiCaprio has set a high bar in environmental activism with The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to protect the earth's ecosystems. [The Guardian]

 

Kim Kardashian West has used her influence and wealth to help release at least 17 inmates that were imprisoned for "low-level" drug offenses. [The Washington Post]

STAY OUT OF IT

Credentials?

Popularity may not relate to the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in a political position.

 

Some career politicians become frustrated with celebrity politics, as some celebrities lack the ability to implement proposed policies. [The Guardian]

 

 

Stick to the spotlight

Some worry that celebrities could accidentally or purposefully spread misinformation to their loyal fans, who may believe what they say.

 

 

Farewell fans

Taking a political side can alienate and deter fans from enjoying any of the celebrity’s work.

 

For example, Kanye West's support of President Trump has "disheartened" many fans. [The Los Angeles Times]

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Aug. 2019: Taylor Swift publicly endorsed Democratic Tennessee Senator Phil Bredesen for the state Senate seat. 24-hours after her endorsement, 65,000 people registered to vote. [USA Today

  • Jan. 2020: Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais joked to keep politics out of the award show, saying "You know nothing about the real world." [The Los Angeles Times]

  • Election 2020: Candidates for the presidency often enjoy celebrity endorsements, as they can help gain traction and popularity with voters. [The New York Times]

  • Register to vote with Rock the Vote here.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • How should we take into account the weight of a celebrity’s political beliefs?

  • To what extent is it acceptable for celebrities to form close relationships with politicians, if at all?

  • Where is the most ideal place for celebrities to get political? Award shows? Social media? Sporting events?  Their own music and movies? Where is the worst platform?

  • Read about Kim and Kanye’s long history with political involvement here.

  • Read an opinion from The Guardian on how "celebrity politics" can be dangerous for America.

  • What happens when a politician receives a controversial celebrity endorsement? 

Key Vocabulary