This piece originally appeared in The Talon, a student run newspaper for Mt. San Jacinto College. It can be viewed on page 2-3 titled “Opinion: Celebrities speaking on politics” and was written by Variety Beat founder Jencita Vargas.
There is quite the controversy over the question of whether or not celebrities should speak out about politics. A quick glance at social media leads to seeing statements like “You’re a singer, not a politician, nobody cares what you think, stick to singing.” For curiosity’s sake, who then is allowed to speak out about politics? Only politicians? Wouldn’t those views just be biased opinions to help whichever party they belong to? If someone is well educated on the policies and candidates running, why are they seemingly not allowed to speak out about their beliefs?
When a family gathers for a barbeque and politics are brought up, do people tell their family members “you’re a teacher… you’re a nurse… you’re a bank teller…. nobody cares about your political opinions?” Why are celebrities excluded then from their political opinions; simply because they are in the public eye? Why shouldn’t they use their platform to help make a difference?Embed from Getty Images
We don’t try to stop celebrities from helping the homeless, or donating to charities, so why should we stop them from engaging in politics? Is it simply because we don’t want our opinion of them to change if they do not agree with our values? Or is it because people are scared they are going to persuade others to vote a certain way and that will mess up the results they are hoping for?
To bring this issue into current context, recently singer-songwriter Taylor Swift started a petition in support of the Equality Act to demand “that on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally.” In order to elicit a response from the White House, a petition has to have at least 100,000 signatures. The petition has now passed over 500,000 signatures, which Swift pointed out was “five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.” The next morning, the White House gave a response.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s pause there; Swift used her platform to speak out about something she was passionate and well-informed about, encouraged others to support that, and managed to get a response from the White House. Regardless of her job classification, that’s pretty impressive.
Would a celebrity have an ulterior motive for speaking out about politics? Usually not, in fact, it tends to alienate large groups of people. There has been pure outrage with some people who have left comments saying they were disgusted they attended her concert and will no longer be supporting her.
Is that how we treat friends and family who have different opinions than ours? Sure, celebrities aren’t necessarily our friends, but why should we treat them with such free disdain? Why should their opinions be any less valuable just because they happen to have a bigger platform? They do not have to be ostracized simply because their beliefs might differ from our own.
Think of it this way, if a singer wanted to start acting, they might initially be met with resistance. People might say, “stick to singing, you know nothing about acting.” That may be true, but if they have a desire to learn, they can study, take classes, and develop a knack for acting. People might even go on to win both a GRAMMY and an Oscar. Maybe one becomes a master at both. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. California literally had The Terminator as their Governor. Who says actors can’t also be politicians or become informed on issues important to them? Maybe people are just scared of what these people can accomplish.Embed from Getty Images
Take Ronald Reagan for instance. The former President acted in at least 30 movies and was President of the Screen Actors Guild before serving his country in the Army. He became the Governor of California for two terms and eventually President of the United States for two terms. Who says actors or people of other professions cannot become good political leaders?Embed from Getty Images
It is key that if celebrities are using their platform to speak out, they become informed. Swift has been one of the artists to prove that she has truly taken the time to learn about the policies, candidates and bills/acts so that she can support those that align with her beliefs. In a recent interview with BBCR1 Live Lounge, Swift opened up about her decision to use her platform to speak out about politics. “The things that happen to you in your life are the things that shape you and your political opinions and your willingness to discuss them… If I can stand here with 120 million Instagram followers and say ‘this,’ maybe ‘this’ helps, maybe it doesn’t, but you gotta say it.”
Encouraging others to get involved and educated so that they can also use their platforms to help illicit change will only bring positive changes to the world. Charities aren’t the only things celebrities can support and who knows the difference they can make if we take the time to be opened minded and non-judgmental because of their celebrity status.