Everyone has an opinion nowadays. More apparent than any are the opinions of celebrities, who have been quite outspoken about politics recently. Hollywood has always been unapologetically on the left, but it is only within the past year that its most notable residents truly seemed to have lost their minds. Despite the praise granted to them by various news outlets, academics and other famous individuals, those at the top should realize they have virtually no grasp on the struggles of average Americans, and preaching down to them does nothing but alienate supporters and denigrate the United States’ image.
To this day, I am amused by people perplexed over President Donald Trump’s victory. “Who voted for Trump?” “Have you ever even met a Trump supporter?” “Where are these people?” Those who pose such questions often do so from the privileged perspective of a college student, academic or white-collar professional. Often to their surprise, there exists an entire population of the United States — between the liberal enclaves of New York City and Los Angeles — who happen to care much less about social justice, the use of personal pronouns and safe spaces than they do about putting food on the table for their families and saving any bit of money they can. Failure of the Democrats to recognize this latter group’s interests in the 2016 election is exactly what caused them to lose it.
Perhaps the best showcases of exalted arrogance are the various award shows, where celebrities get together several times a year and applaud each other. Few working-class Americans were fooled when Meryl Streep got ahold of the microphone at the Golden Globes and began talking about how Hollywood is one of the most “vilified segments of American society.” Then there was the Academy Awards, where Viola Davis stated her gratitude toward being an artist because it is “the only profession to celebrate what it means to live a life.” The level of condescension in such remarks is astonishing. In the aftermath, outspoken celebrities are often lauded by various news outlets for being “brave.” What is possibly brave about asserting a political opinion in front of a crowd that shares that same opinion? Such logic is exactly what so many Americans find unpalatable.
I am less concerned with Streep losing fans than I am with the perception of this country. Being a huge proponent of free speech, I would never advocate to formally silence ignorant people. However, we should openly criticize celebrities when they act like their concerns are the same concerns of everyone else. As the United States, much of the world looks up to us insofar as democratic principles, social trends and cultural values. Hollywood can play a major role in what the image of the United States is through all the films and music that are produced in Hollywood and then distributed around the world. Therefore, Americans should be critical of how that image is portrayed.
But what is perhaps the most immediate consequence of expressing political opinions in an artistic domain is how reliably it divides us. When folks buy tickets to go see the highly acclaimed Broadway show “Hamilton: An American Musical,” they do not do so to be harangued by a cast of politically frustrated actors, they do it to enjoy the music, dancing and spectacle itself — political caveats not included. If the arts cannot be the one area where people put their opinions aside and enjoy one another’s company, then the goal to reconcile political difference and reduce polarization may be a more arduous task than once imagined.
Brian Deinstadt is a junior double-majoring in political science and English.