We love famous people. It’s just a fact about our society. We follow them around with notepads, smartphones and cameras. We spend ridiculous amounts of time watching them play games and tell stories on Jimmy Kimmel. We love them.
The celebrity worshipping in our culture is not hidden or apologetic. Normally it stays in its sphere of light-hearted entertainment. But what’s interesting to me is when that celebrity worship brushes up against the “real world”, which is exactly what’s happening in this election cycle.
Celebrities being used for political agendas is nothing new (check out this book on JFK and Frank Sinatra’s friendship, if you’re interested). But with the buzz that is building as we head towards November, I think it’s noteworthy to look at how the stars we know and love are positioning themselves, and what it means for our country.
I’ve embedded a video that came out earlier this month below. It includes a large group of celebrities pushing people to vote, and, specifically, pushing them not to vote for Donald Trump. It’s a humorous 3-minute piece that includes everyone from Keegan Michael Key to a good chunk of the Avengers.
The video itself, in a tongue-and-cheek way, included a self-deprecating acknowledgment of the inherent strangeness of celebrity endorsements.
“And the only way we can prove [how important voting is] to you is by having lots of famous people…repeating how important…it is. Register,” the group of celebrities say in the video.
No one in the video is politically qualified or politically relevant in any way. Yet there is an ethos associated with people like Robert Downey, Jr. It’s arguably unearned, but powerful.
As it turns out, this video is actually from a super PAC in support of Hillary Clinton. The PAC is called Save the Day and was, interestingly enough, founded by Joss Whedon, the director of both “Avengers” films and creator of shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”.
On a similar note, last week it was announced that six “West Wing” cast members intended to campaign for Clinton in the state of Ohio. It perhaps makes the story more amusing or headline grabbing that they’re a group of fake White House workers, but their role in politics is no longer fictional.
“My sense is that our mission statement isn’t about changing hearts and minds, it’s more about mobilizing the voters and getting people to reach out beyond their usual comfort zone to get other family members and friends to go out and vote,” Joshua Malina (Will Bailey) told the Hollywood Reporter.
If we give added political credence to celebrities, we place an interesting amount of trust and faith in them. To me, it shows that anyone who dismisses the entertainment industry as just for fun or fluff is clearly not fully examining the implications of our cultural attachment to it.
What we’re seeing is that, this election, someone with just a background on a television show can find a wide platform in the political conversation, regardless of that person’s traditional political ties or qualifications.
That person might be Iron Man. They might be a TV star of the early 2000s. Hey, they might even be one of the presidential candidates.