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Whoops

| Monday, October 10, 2016

“What does Whoopi Goldberg actually do?” I was about halfway through Ron Howard’s recently-released music documentary “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” when I came to a sudden realization: Somebody thought that the most capable person available to discuss The Beatles’ success during the early 1960s was the American Whoopi Goldberg, who was not even 10 years old during the Fab Four’s first American tour. But, Goldberg is not only the authority on British rock bands. Seen narrating, hosting or making cameo appearances on almost every talk show, entertainment awards ceremony and big- and small- screen documentary filmed in the past 25 years, I suppose the ubiquitous celebrity’s anomalous appearance in Ron Howard’s documentary really shouldn’t have come as a great surprise.

Goldberg is front-and-center in the ranks of Hollywood’s finest who made news earlier this year by threatening to leave the United States if Republican candidate Donald Trump is elected president in November (a list that includes such accomplished political authorities as Rosie O’Donnell and Lena Dunham). While Whoopi seems to have since rescinded her anti-patriotic travel plans (to the great relief of every documentary filmmaker whose subject involves anything that’s occurred on this planet during the last 50 years), the perceived “newsworthiness” of the political stance of this actress with a good agent means that we might be taking celebrity-worship too far.

Given the two flawed candidates currently running for the highest office in the United States, it’s obvious why so many celebrities have expressed their opinions so vocally. Hollywood elites including Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney and Beyoncé have all spent months fundraising for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. And, the cast and director of Marvel’s “The Avengers” recently circulated a viral video campaign in support of the “Never Trump” movement. Even Notre Dame’s own Coach Lou Holtz has chimed in, endorsing Trump and publicly expressing his thoughts on the election. There is certainly no shortage of celebrity opinions available for consumption — just check any entertainment or political news source for your daily dose.

In the development of our entertainment-centric culture over the past half-century, celebrity has created an influence on the adolescent and young adult population more powerful than anything in history. While some political and religious movements have brought success, few can compare to the unabashed mania that captured America during the Beatles’ “more famous than Jesus” appeal to the baby boomers. Even the short-lived hysteria that followed the release of “Pokémon Go” earlier this summer points to the impact popular culture can have on global politics, the judicial system and social order. The overwhelming influence of celebrities on the lives of average Americans undeniably exists, but it also raises some questions.

Clearly, there are a number of celebrities who sometimes use their fame and fortune for virtuous social causes; the nobility of philanthropists has benefitted our society for centuries. But celebrities (who are essentially humans like the rest of us), have, like all of us, opinions and personal views shaped by their own lives and interests. The difference is, unlike the rest of us, their words are heard by a large global audience instantly. In addition, too many celebrities unfortunately have specific agendas and abuse their reach and power. Letting people know what is on their mind is practically a second profession for most – regardless of their actual qualification on a given subject. The world is their captive audience, and they know that whether you agree or not, you will have no choice but to listen.

With the future direction of our country at stake, we should know better.

Not all opinions are equal. The current political climate is an ideal circumstance for the young generation to prove that we are not defined simply by the headline-making political opinions of our favorite musician or movie star. Take this opportunity to ignore the unnecessary noise. Read facts on the issues and develop your own informed opinion.

Whoopi Goldberg shows us the entertainment industry’s idea of an opinion: a marketing campaign based around the persuasive phrase “I’m a celebrity, so you can trust me.” It is our duty as citizens to keep this celebrity evangelization in check. Just don’t tell Ron Howard.

Julian Mancini’s column is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Mr. Elias Howe, who, in 1846, invented the sewing machine. He is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying civil engineering with a minor in collaborative innovation. Send amusing Photoshops and sarcastic remarks to jmancin1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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