By Kate Bedard
Elm Staff Writer
The Oscars signaled the end of an anticipated awards season for Hollywood artists. Across the country, the award show season created more than just a buzz around whose favorite movie would reign supreme. In recent years, more and more artists are using their acceptance speech or red carpet interviews as a form of activism for issues they find important.
This year, many of these causes revolve around problems befalling women, such as the #MeToo movement or the push for equal pay. While fans and journalists alike refer to celebrities who take a stand on such issues as “brave” or “inspirational,” I wonder if everyone who speaks up is actually deserving of such recognition.
I would like to stress that this article is not meant to bash celebrities for stating their opinion. In my research for the problems regarding political activism in award shows, I’ve found that many who dislike this activism don’t want to hear politics in general, and feel that these artists are using their spot to encourage liberal brainwashing in today’s youth. I don’t think that celebrities are the one and only reason why people might decide to favor left-wing politics.
Instead, I would like to focus on how much weight these artists are putting into their beliefs. Is someone who uses their time on the podium to encourage women’s rights or ending racial issues actually brave if they’re only looking for a cheering audience? Social justice becomes problematic when the artist is doing it more for themselves than for the cause. This problem can be traced back to the infamous acceptance speech George Clooney gave in 2006. He talked about Hollywood as being “out of touch” with political issues, and said he was “proud to be out of touch.” While speeches back then weren’t as political as today, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to bring politics up.
“When Political Clooney took over, the best he could do was give lame criticism of the ‘out of touch’ Hollywood stereotype,” said Martha Ross, a writer and journalist for Mercury News. “His critics only confirmed the reason that stereotype exists.”
As someone who mainly agrees with the views being expressed about feminism and societal change within these speeches, what really makes me roll my eyes at them is that it feels like many artists aren’t putting their money where their mouth is. Saying something at an award show might give an issue a good amount of attention for a few weeks, but after a while it pretty much dies down unless something else comes up. In that sense, speaking up does very little in terms of long term change.
“Celebrity protests rarely change things,” said Hadley Freeman, a columnist for The Guardian. “After all, as President [Donald] Trump and his supporters are keen to point out, all the celebrities in the world . . . couldn’t help Hillary Clinton get elected.”
Again, I’m not going to argue that celebrities should shut up about an issue. If they ever want me to start cheering for them as they passionately describe their beliefs, then they should be working on change outside of their time on screen.
Actors such as Keanu Reeves have given to a wide variety of charities over the years, often anonymously. Bono, the singer for U2, has done so much for famine and AIDS relief advocacy in Africa that he has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize three different times. Nicole Kidman, Anne Hathaway, and Emma Watson are UN Women Goodwill Ambassadors who travel the world and advocate for women’s rights issues.
There are plenty more celebrities who have dedicated much of their time and charitable efforts to issues they find important to society. These are the people who I want to see talking about politics both in and out of award shows. Just imagine how much better the world would be if every artist in Hollywood put as much effort into their beliefs as they do with their work