Celebrities in politics

Zoe Zajac Op, Ed Contributor

In our current, very partisan political climate there is a large portion of the general public that is unhappy with celebrity involvement in political issues. While the trend of celebrity political involvement is very popular lately its presence is not sudden or new.     

Celebrities have had political influence with the public for decades, nearly a century. A lot of the current outrage is misplaced and this celebrity involvement isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In this last presidential election there was more fury directed towards public figures that identified their political standing than ever before.

Celebrities like Katy Perry, Kid Rock, and Amy Schumer were all very open and active in the election, publically endorsing their choice of candidates. No matter what their political affiliations were there was backlash faced by many for speaking out and trying to influence every-day citizens about political matters.

Most of this has been present on social media. Countless users on Facebook and Twitter hold the opinion that these influencers are imposing their opinion on the general public instead of conveying meaningful messages about their strong beliefs.

I’ve had personal conversations with people in my life who hold this opinion, but I see celebrity involvement as a very positive thing. Since the modern definition of celebrity has existed artists have had the power to influence the public.

Entertainers sharing their opinion is not a new phenomenon. Even in the “golden age” of Hollywood actors like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall spoke out about the issues that mattered to them and tried to elicit change in the 1940s during the Red Scare. Being a performer or an artist gives one the right to share opinions and try to influence the public.

Yes, the public has a right to disagree with opinions of popular pubic figures, but that doesn’t mean that artists shouldn’t be allowed to use their medium in this way.

Celebrity influencers have a huge impact on the involvement of youth in politics. With an extremely low voting turnout in our country, the U.S. needs people to truly care about government and be literate in all areas of politics. According to the Penn State University Libraries only 58% of eligible voters participated in the 2016 general election.

Even if some people disagree with a celebrity’s stance on an issue, the topic being brought forward for public discussion is not a negative thing. Sparking interest in political action or issues in teens and soon to be voters has the potential to change future policy drastically. Even in college when I talk to a few members of my peers about current events, some are unaware of political leaders and world issues.

Messages about political issues from celebrities should not be the only source of information for younger generations, but it could be a stepping stone to lead them into learning more about these topics.

Right now we’re in a situation where our president is a former reality star. To say that those in the entertainment industry should not impose their opinion on the public is also saying that only politicians or those involved in news reporting should offer insight to the general public.
If this were to hypothetically happen it would narrow our sources of strong public opinion and leave us with few people to listen to or follow in the age of global communication.

Zoe is a junior Mass Communications major and an Op/Ed Contributor for The Voice.