It is award season again and we all know what that means. Celebrities will be thanking their moms and God and using their moment to shine a light on a cause. Do you recall the 2015 Oscars? There was no shortage of heartfelt speeches, urging us to join together for the sick, hungry, or forgotten.
Last night I watched the Golden Globes which, let’s be honest, consists mostly of observing people eat, drink, and squeeze their way through a room filled with a few too many tables. The dresses sparkled, the tuxes were perfectly tailored, and soon the guests were lit right along with the political fuse.
It is no secret which way the Hollywood community leans. There was no shortage of jokes at the expense of the President-Elect. Hugh Laurie -later unnecessarily explained by Meryl Streep- joked that the room was full of republican enemies. Hollywood. Foreign. Press. Surely we can all admit that we found that at least a tad humorous.
But here lies the question. Should celebrities use their platform to take a political stand? Unofficial research (a glance through my Facebook feed) would suggest that as the general public, we don’t agree on this topic. No surprise there.
Many people, including Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg, say celebrities should stay out of it. And, as this article would suggest, many people wish that Meryl Streep would have simply accepted her award, reflected on her career, and not gone over her three minutes. These individuals have offered important arguments for us to consider and yet, I cannot help but wonder…
Most of us have been taught to use our influence to stand up for what is right. We teach our children to do the same. Whatever platform you have been given, use it. Be a voice for good. You have been handed a microphone which broadcasts your voice to the edges of a certain audience, so speak up. Football captain? Speak up. Pastor? Speak up. Business leader? Office assistant? Mom? Quiet kid with a small group of friends? Speak up. You influence someone so make sure your influence is positive.
For a bit of history, Pope Pius XII caught a lot of flack for not speaking out more directly about the Holocaust. (Read more on that here.) Why would people expect him to speak out? He’s not a politician. He’s not going to decide who goes to war and who stays home. And yet, as a religious leader he had influence, so people, churched and unchurched, expected him to use his platform to speak up.
Why, then, do so many of us believe that celebrities should check their mics at the door?
Because we are a deeply complicated people. If you knew that a celebrity felt strongly about something that you cared about, you would likely be very confused and perhaps even disgusted if they chose to remain silent. This observation comes from noticing again and again when friends repost interviews and quotes from celebrities (or celebrity pastors), praising their bravery to speak up for what is right. I’ve also noticed that we quickly change our minds when a celebrity speaks up for something with which we disagree.
It comes down to this: We want to hear our own voices reflected back to us. We celebrate when people speak up for our causes. We vilify when they speak up against them.
Sure, I’d much rather be entertained than challenged, but no one would ever grow that way. Then again, art in itself can be the challenger, so should Hollywood stick to using their voices through film and music? How do we decide where the boundaries lie? I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong for celebrities to be so vocal about politics. I do know that as a community of humans, we are utterly contradictory. People on every side contradict themselves. There has been plenty of evidence throughout the last year. So, maybe it isn’t only celebrities that are at fault. Certainly, we are collectively better when we each use wisdom when it comes to the microphones we carry. There is a time to speak up and a time to check the mic at the door for each of us: for celebrities, for you and me, and even for the President himself.