The Parthenon

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EDITORIAL: Celebrities talk politics, as they should

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Award show season is in full swing, with the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and most recently, the Grammy’s behind us. For many celebrities attending and accepting awards, events like these are seen as an ample time to speak out about politics and other social issues. However, much like the NFL being chastised for its players making political statements by taking a knee during the national anthem, celebrities are likewise criticized for using their screen time at award shows to talk politics.

At last night’s Grammy’s show, one particular bit included multiple celebrities, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, reading bits of the controversial book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” written by Michael Wolff. While the awards show was filled with political commentary from celebrities like Kendrick Lamar, Trevor Noah and Sarah Silverman, this particular bit caused quite the uproar amongst conservatives.

“I have always loved the Grammys,” tweeted United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, “but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it. Don’t ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it.”

What is so interesting about this tweet is that it is a politician tweeting about the arts asking that artists not talk about politics. It is easy to spot the hypocrisy. This isn’t the first time a politician has condemned celebrities for their awards show statements, however.

Just last year, President Trump took to Twitter to rant about actress Meryl Streep’s snub at the Golden Globes, writing, “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big.”

Many critics claim that entertainers should just do their jobs, which is to entertain. But this is flawed thinking, because these actors, musicians, comedians and other celebrities are more than their professions. They are real people with real opinions, and given a stage and a microphone, it is only right and democratic for them to share their views.

“This is America,” said actor Mark Ruffalo to Buzzfeed. “Part of our democracy is to be able to exchange ideas openly and freely, and I always find it laughable when people tell me to shut up, you know, ‘you’re just an actor.’”

Ruffalo went on to say that in many ways, actors and actresses have great insight into humanity that lends itself to political discussion.

“The kind of beautiful thing about being an actor is you get to see a lot of different aspects of life–people’s lives,” Ruffalo said. “You enter them, you get to know them, and so in some sense, I think we’re actually well-positioned and have quite a lot to share and have a really deep understanding of the world in ways that probably a lot of politicians don’t even have.”

Although others shared Ruffalo’s sentiments, the Grammy’s ratings dropped 24 percent according to The New York Times, a nine-year low with only 19.8 million viewers. While other factors could be to blame, the increasingly political nature of shows like these appear to be the main culprit.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tweeted this on Sunday: “Breaking wind from CNN! Grammy’s canceled 2nite! Total lack of interest from public in seeing millionaire celebs whine about how hard their lives are.” He then went on to plug his own show.

Awards shows aren’t alone in losing viewers, with the 2017 NFL season down in viewership by almost 10 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. Also lost was a little more than $2 billion of in-game advertising. With players taking a knee across the league, viewers and advertisers alike appear fed up with the collision of politics and entertainment.

The public must accept that its favorite celebrities are real people with real stories and real opinions. It is, really, their responsibility to use their platform to speak out against injustice. Their purpose in life is not solely to entertain.

Throughout history entertainers have used their platform to make political statements, and democracy should be glad that they do.

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