Understanding the implications of celebrities’ public political voices


On Jan. 5, the 77th annual Golden Globes Award ceremony was held in Beverly Hills to recognize the excellence of various media productions and actors from the past year. Ricky Gervais, an English comedian, actor, and writer, served as the host of the ceremony for the fourth time and opened up the event with a controversial speech noted for its humorous yet critical take on Hollywood. Among many of his commentaries, his warning to celebrities regarding their political endorsements was the most impressive of all. He exclaimed, “If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything.” While Gervais’s speech was viewed as scathing to some, his warning to the celebrities to avoid getting political in their acceptance speeches was generally met with public appreciation. Given how much celebrities can influence their young fans, who are yet to develop their own political opinions, it was necessary for someone like Gervais to call them out. Gervais’s monologue was a conveyal of the truth, rather than offensive criticism of celebrities. 

Celebrities indeed have freedom of speech. No one can abuse their rights to express their opinions in public, and the consequences that might result from their actions are their burden to take on. However, although their judgement calls should be respected, it is important to consider that they are not just like any other individuals. Most of them are big influencers who have large fandoms and millions of followers on social media. As public figures, their actions and words are taken seriously, often leading to various controversies. Therefore, how can we ignore these components and treat celebrities’ monologues as equally as others’? Although some people might argue that they are mostly unaffected by celebrities’ political commentary, this cannot be true for avid fans who consider their stars as role models. Celebrities should be more cautious of the impact and be more responsible with the possible consequences young fans might experience. 

We can clearly see how much control celebrities can have on their fans through their promotions in trends; most of the time, they are about fashion and lifestyle. After IU, a singer-songwriter, appeared in purple sportswear in a TV show, her photos went viral on social media, and many young women started to copy her style. Although like IU’s sportswear, trends started by celebrities are mostly about appearances, their influence is not limited to just fashion. When Taylor Swift urged her fans to vote on Instagram by posting, “Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values,” about 65,000 people registered newly, demonstrating her power over politics. Moreover, she recently revealed her opinion on the upcoming 2020 election, and it is not hard to estimate how much her fans’ political opinions have changed after reading her interview. Like Taylor Swift, so many celebrities directly deliver their political speeches to their fans without giving them too much thought. While suggesting to exercise civic duties is acceptable, endorsing or criticizing certain political candidates should be condemned. Although the public should realize the celebrities’ rights to express their opinions, celebrities should also make an effort to acknowledge their social impact on young fans who need a chance to develop their own political views before they are influenced by others.