Political Celebrities

I just read on yahoo that Tom Cruise requested a meeting with the French Finance Minister Nikolas Sarkozy. He reportedly wants to talk about Franco-American relations, damaged by France’s refusal to endorse a U.S. led war in Iraq. There are fundamental problems with this situation.

First of all Tom Cruise is an man who gained fame by dancing in his underwear, not from his brain power. He never went to college. He isn’t a trained diplomat. He can’t even act well. He is the same brand of smug egotism in every movie he makes. Secondly, I don’t want Tom Cruise representing all of the United States. I don’t want him to speak for me. I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t elect him to be my envoy to the world. I would be afraid of any alliance he made with anything. He’s an idiot celebrity. I found a web page dedicated to this precise phenomenon of idiot celebrities. Apparently, there is a symbiosis between politicians and celebrities.

Richard Rongstad reports the following:

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?


Jeremy said…
I agree in general.I know I’m a U2 nut, but I think Bono is an exception to the rule. He was stumping for the AIDS crisis in Africa and debt cancellation for third-world countries a full year or so before they became sexy issues, but he started the conversation. I admire him too because he met with countless leaders on the issue, not just politicians but people in treasury and professors of economics and leaders in worlds where there were no cameras to glorify his work. Personally, as a fan, he’s helped open my eyes to issues I wasn’t reading about in the mainstream, and I know I’m not alone. Hooray for Bono, he’s the anti Tom Cruise!

4:51 PM
Marti said…
Bono is championing social causes, bringing awareness not meddling in international governmental relations. I think that’s different than the political actions of Barbara Streisand, who sued a CA environmentalist trying to save the CA coast because he photographed part of her property in Malibu. She doesn’t really care about people, or causes only that which upholds her lifestyle. Ok, so also harsh, but she’s just obnoxious.
6:44 PM
Joanna said…
“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. “Okay, Marti…you can say this because you are an intelligent, educated, analytical person. As absolutely frightening as it is, I think there are many less educated and less intelligent people whose decisions are swayed by what their favorite celebrity has to say. Otherwise why would charities and companies recruit celebrity spokespeople?

As far as liberal celebrities go my favorite example was Sarah Jessica Parker lamenting how bad Bush’s election was going to be for her impoverished family. If that isn’t the height of hypocrisy I don’t know what is. I don’t see her going broke to try to raise her family out of its poverty. She’d rather the government (aka my taxes) take care of them. I think that’s why most liberal celebrities are liberal. They don’t want to be socially responsible for making the world better with the fruits of their labor. They’d rather the government take care of it.

Okay, there’s my rant to add to yours. Bottom line…Tom Cruise has no right representing America to the French.

10:27 PM
hadashi said…
Yes, Bono rocks our world, both literally an figuratively. This is the man who says that celebrity is a currency, and you can spend it wisely or foolishly — he’s trying for wisely. Go to http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/between/2004/commence-b.html for a kick-ass commencement speech he gave this year. It’s funny, inspirational, and more real than anything Mr. Tom “My best role was Legend” Cruise will ever say.
1:56 AM
Anonymous said…
Don’t be anxious 😉
I don’t think that this meeting between Tom Cruise and Nicolas Sarkozy will have a lot of influence on political choice or vision of United States in Sarkozy’s point of view

Julien – (a French guy) – Comite de soutien a Sarkozy
8:36 AM
Marti said…
LOL thanks for the reassurance that Tom Cruise is just a pompous windbag. I just don’t see why he needs to take this meeting upon himself in the first place. The man is part of a cult for heaven sakes.

Posted on August 30, 2004, in Pop Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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