This may be a current affairs column, but I am trying my hardest to make sure it doesn’t include any words that start with T and end with rump. It’s been a struggle, to say the least. Current affairs (and despairs) of the last few weeks and months have all been distinctly spray tanned. But in the midst of all this news, fake or otherwise, the way we talk about the headlines has risen to the forefront of conversation. This discourse-ception is focused, mostly, on public figures. While this is not exactly a new debate, lately people seem to have been asking, should celebrities “get political”?
What does “getting political” even mean? Under current scrutiny, anyway, you have the likes of Lily Allen and Gary Lineker on one end of the spectrum and Taylor Swift on the other. The former have become renowned for voicing their outspoken, left-leaning opinions on Twitter (hard-hitting political analysis on Lineker’s profile includes “Farage will always be a dick”), while the latter has been the subject of scathing indictments of her radio silence on all things political on multiple occasions over the last couple of years.
With everyone in the limelight being active on Twitter and other social media sites, it’s easier than ever to share your views.
The debate falls down to the question of whether those with a voice and an audience have an obligation to use them or whether they should “stick to what they know”. With everyone in the limelight being active on Twitter and other social media sites, it’s easier than ever to share your views. But just because you can doesn’t always mean you should, right?
Some argue that celebrities are not sufficiently “qualified” to talk about politics. So what exactly is it that gives someone the authority to talk about current affairs? (Absolutely nothing, if this column is anything to go by.) There’s also those that ask why celebrities care about politics when their wealth and privilege often mean they are above the issues and injustices being debated. But surely it’s a good thing if people in that position want to speak out for those who are less fortunate than them? Is that not the least they can do with their fame?
Another recent example is Ewan McGregor cancelling his appearance on Good Morning Britain in light of Piers Morgan’s comments on last month’s Women’s March. In this scenario, McGregor was the celebrity in question, supposedly letting politics get in the way of promoting T2 Trainspotting. But surely at this point Morgan is also (for better or for worse) a “celebrity”? Did the current leader of the free world not find his own fame as a TV personality? Where do we draw the line between celebrity and Person Who Has The God-Given Right To Talk About Politics?
Of course, on the other hand, there’s the case of Taylor Swift, who only remembers she’s a feminist when Spotify isn’t paying her enough royalties. Her version of girl power apparently begins and ends with how many famous gal pals she can fit into one Instagram photo, which has been made clear by the fact that her comments regarding reproductive rights, racism, and other prevalent issues in the United States at the moment resemble a very large tumbleweed. When you have an audience of predominantly young girls, one might argue that you have a responsibility to them. One could also argue that you don’t, but all arguments aside, this is ultimately an undeniably hypocritical move on her part.
So, should Gary Lineker go back to being full-time Crisp Man? Should Taylor Swift go Out of the Woods and into the political arena?
When it comes down to it, if you don’t want to listen to them, celebrities are pretty easy to tune out. They’re not your housemate or your sibling or your nan or whichever person in your life just really likes talking about Brexit. You can block them on social media, skim over their name in articles, change the channel if they crop up on a chat show.
surely it’s a good thing if people in that position want to speak out for those who are less fortunate than them?
On the other hand, if they don’t want to talk about politics, that’s their choice. But recent events have highlighted the fact that many celebrities only use activism as a publicity ploy. In other news, water is wet, but this is disappointing nonetheless if the person in question is someone whose work you admire and enjoy.
Ultimately, if you have something to say and you have a listening audience, why not? Of course, promoting hate and prejudice is another issue entirely, but those who hopped onto the activism bandwagon when they decided it suited their public image should practice what they claim to preach. Because in a digital world where everyone is always talking, silence doesn’t go unnoticed.