ANGLES: Does the scope of celebrity insight extend to politics?

Public figures use their platforms for social and political change


We live in a celebrity culture. We watched the Super Bowl when Beyoncé referenced Black Lives Matter. We tuned into the Oscars when Leo DiCaprio dedicated his acceptance speech to combating global warming. Drake donated his music video budget for “God’s Plan” to charities, filmed it and we put on YouTube. We cry every time Sarah McLachlan pops up on the screen to tell us about saving abused animals. 

Every week night, millions of Americans tune in to watch late-night television hosts, who blend comedy with pop culture and news. 

The fact is, in our mainstream society, we cannot remove celebrities from political actions. After all, our president was a celebrity first, and now he makes all our governmental decisions. And to be extremely technical, a celebrity is defined as “a famous or well-known person” —which means even political consultants can be celebrities themselves. 

Celebrities are integrated into our everyday lives, filling our Twitter feeds and Netflix shows, donating money to charities, giving us something to rant about to strangers while waiting in line at the grocery store and singing the songs we can’t get out of our heads. 

Celebrities are athletes, musicians, actors, artists, doctors, writers and, yes, politicians.

We think of them as people with power and influence and, most importantly, the money and platform to get things done and reach mass audiences.

Celebrities start the conversation. Superstars are standing up to take a stand on political issues so it’s only natural they be consulted. 

It works in reverse, too. When celebrities speak out against injustice, it can lead to a larger movement. Actresses spoke up against sexual assault, contributed to #MeToo and sponsored TIME’S UP, an organization dedicated to ending sexual abuse in the workplace. 

Colin Kaepernick set the football realm on fire when he took a knee to protest police brutality, even prompting the president to ask for a boycott of the whole NFL. 

Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist, said in a New York Times article: “When a famous person can use their celebrity to spread information about why someone should get off the sidelines and vote, that’s a good thing.” 

While by no means would I call the Kardashians political gurus, when one of them speaks up about something, it sure sparks a discussion. Sometimes, all we need to resolve issues is jump start dialogue about the topic. 

Society likes to hear the opinions of famous people. That’s why, according to a USA Today article, when celebrities endorse products, the sales for said products rise four percent—no small feat when you consider that four percent can equate to millions or billions of dollars. 

Jeff Stibel explains why we trust celebrities so much: “First, our minds do not do a good job of differentiating between real and make-believe, so celebrities become familiar to us… Even though we’ve never met them, the brain regards familiar celebrities the same way it does people who are actually familiar and trustworthy to us in real life.” 

Reporters can report facts, but if you want an opinion, it’s free game. Unless you live under a rock in the backwoods of the Appalachian Mountains, it’s unlikely that your life hasn’t already been infiltrated by celebrity endorsements.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re part of the public forum too. 

Destiny Pinder-Buckley is a sophomore English and French major from Mitchell, S.D.

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