Dave Brown who coined the term celebrityism; “a new belief system born out of the show business era, characterized by the illusion that things don’t happen unless famous people make them happen.” There is a mutual attraction between celebrities and politicians. Celebrities enjoy fame and media access that is envied by politicians. Politicians have real power that is envied by celebrities. Ronald Brownstein, in his book, The Power and the Glitter wrote; “Celebrities looked to politicians to validate them as part of the company of serious men and women. Politicians looked to celebrities to validate them as part of the company of the famous”.
We have two brands of the political celebrity. The first group are those that became politicians. I live in California, home to the ultimate example of political celebrity – our non-girly governator Ahnold. It’s been a trend for years – Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, Gopher from Love Boat have turned their fame into votes. On the flip side, we have those that are just very politically active – Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie O’Donnell, Barbara Streisand and many others. At every turn they use their celebrity to give voice to their political ideas.
So why do celebrities feel the need to spout off at the mouth? Fame certainly does give them a platform. Celebrity innately comes with a certain amount of perceived power, perhaps in their own minds they are wielding it for good and not evil. The real question is their political influence. They can talk all they want, but is anyone really listening? Do they really change anything?
Have I ever been swayed by a political issue because of something that a celebrity said? Not really. I just think they’re idiots going on about something they know precious little about. I don’t see them as an authoritative source of anything other than acting or fashion. Essentially they are walking advertisements for clothes, jewelry, TV shows and their affluent lifestyles. Is being forced to listen to their opinion everywhere the price we pay for them teaching us how to dress? Why do we care what they think?
I have a crazy theory that most celebrities are liberal democrats to try and get more people to see their projects. They know that they are severely out of touch with the common man. They can’t relate to the problems most of us face, so celebrities try to appear normal by championing political agendas that supposedly bring help to us peons. They think this makes them more in tune with our lives and that by showing they care, we’ll love them and frequent their movies or watch their TV show.
Am I being cynical, probably. I’m the first to admit I’m fascinated by celebrities, but from a scientific point of view. I look at them as a scientist would a new specimen that might help us find the cure to cancer. Perhaps celebrities are the distorted extremes of humanity and if we can figure them out we might realize the root of our own destruction. Am I dehumanizing them? If we prick them don’t they bleed red blood? Don’t they deserve love to?
We love to hate them. We like to see them rise. We love to see them fall. We build them up to bring them down. It’s a sick twisted cycle. In the end, red rover red rover, don’t send Tom Cruise right over. I believe he might be easily distracted with his own reflection. Someone flash him a mirror. Follow the light Tom, follow the light.
Now there are those celebrities who are doing good – as my friend Jer notes below there is Bono, Angelina Jolie (UN Ambassardor for children), Audrey Hepburn, Jerry Lewis … ok now I’m drawing a blank. I wonder if celebrities lend their name to raise awareness for the cause or to raise awareness for themselves. Cause I can’t remember any other celebrities or their cause.
What do you think about political celebrities? Do you care what they think? Do you think its part of their responsibility of fame to speak out?