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And the award goes to …

| Thursday, February 2, 2017

I don’t know about you, but when I turn on an award show, I’m not looking for the glamorous dresses or dashing movie stars. What I’m really tuning in for is a healthy dose of political and social activism. I mean, what are celebrities if not the perfect, educated, shining examples of morality for all of us common folk? No one asked for them to step out of the realm of romantic comedy, with the occasional indie film, yet here they are, ready to bravely spread the word on whatever it is that’s wrong with the world nowadays. Where would we be as a society without these noble individuals preventing us from going astray?

Today more than ever, celebrities have been using any chance they can to spread awareness for their cause, whatever that cause may be. How much influence should celebrities really have in political and social disputes? Are award shows really the time or place to spread advocacy, especially when people are interested in the escapism your art provides, not your own political and social views?

Despite becoming a more and more prevalent recently (I’m looking at you, Meryl), award-show activism is not a new fad. Marlon Brando famously abstained from attending the Academy Awards in 1973, the year for which he was nominated for Best Actor for his work in “The Godfather.” The reason for his absence? To protest the role of Native Americans in film. Brando wrote, “The motion picture community has been as responsible as any degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing his as savage, hostile and evil.”

Given his stature in the very industry in which he was criticizing, Brando conceivably did have the power to achieve something. Since then, however, the speeches and protests brought on by celebrities have become less focused on changing the film industry or raising advocacy for specific causes related to their lives or work, and more focused on letting us know how much their art represents the opposite of all that is wrong with the world, usually aimed at Trump and anyone evil enough to vote for him. Political discourse is essential for democracy, but is the stage of the Golden Globes really the place to shut down your “opponents,” none of which are in the room with you, a room full of the wealthiest, most-glamorous elite?

The activism extends outside the award stage. You couldn’t scroll through Instagram or Facebook without seeing your favorite celebrities explaining in simple, easy to understand diction (for us common folk) why you should vote for so and so. Commercials aired showing all out favorite movie stars bashing certain candidates, encouraging us to get off the couch and vote. Well, I wasn’t going to vote, but now that Matt Damon is telling me to, you can be sure I will, dang it!

One the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss these people as being too out of touch with the common person. This can make their statements seem like a tad bit convoluted and meaningless.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s noble for such successful individuals to stick their necks out for a cause that they are so removed from. The bit that makes their pleas a bit hard to swallow is when the fact that they so often claim their artistic sense puts them in better connection with morality. The idea is that they so often portray characters struggling with depression, racism, sexism, dictatorships and oppression, so naturally they should spearhead the campaigns against such issues. Personally, the one thing I go to the movies for is to escape the real world, if even for an hour or two. That is what actors represent to myself and many others: escapism, and not much else. The question then becomes: Why are these people we see in films to escape so influential in our society? I’ll be the first to admit that I eat celebrity gossip up; I love to hear about their love lives, how they learned portrayed some of my characters so expertly, the favorite roles they have ever played. However, when we pay so much attention to these parts of their lives, it is probably easy for celebrities to think they have a duty to let us know their political stances as well. The majority of actors and actresses are not more educated than the “common man,” yet we as a society are guilty of looking to them to be societal movers and shakers.

The awards stage is not a platform for social change to the extent that recent stars have made it out to be, especially when used to insult or negate the voices of those who disagree. When I turn on the Golden Globes, I expect to see glamorous attire and hear about great films.

But with a reality TV star as the current leader of the free world, who can really blame actors for thinking they belong in the political realm?

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

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