Disclaimer – This post is not an endorsement of the views expressed in any screenshots or linked articles included below.
You’ve probably seen it. Or at least heard about it. You know, that rant Cardi B. went on about the government shutdown. If you’ve heard about that, then you’ve probably heard about this too:
What you may not have seen is the GQ article (https://www.gq.com/story/cardi-b-invasion-of-privacy-profile) where Cardi B. expresses significantly more off-the-cuff knowledge about American government and its history than I can do. (Which I probably should not admit, given that I majored in Political Science, but oh well.) If, at this point, you are asking why any of this matters, I’m (1) concerned that you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, and (2) going to point you towards social media.
With the rise of social media, we are able to become “friends” with our favorite celebrities. We can follow along in real time as they struggle with very real, and VERY public, break downs (see Shia LeBouf, Amanda Bynes, even Britney Spears). We can celebrate along with them (see Andy Cohen’s epic Real Housewives baby shower). We can even go on vacation with them (see Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter and Instagram). This can be wonderful when it comes to building a celebrity’s brand, and toxic when it comes to the real life issues celebrities face (see too many people to name).
Unfortunately, this accessibility has not actually humanized these celebrities. An ever louder group of voices refuses to believe that people working in the entertainment industry can add anything of value to the public discourse. The first instance of this that I truly remember is one that we are all aware of – Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel. While he is neither the first athlete, nor will he be the last, to speak out regarding the violence affecting African-Americans in this country, he has faced the most public backlash.
This is something that we have seen over and over in recent years. Actors and actresses endorse a political candidate – what do they even know about politics? It’s clearly just a sign of the liberal decay in Hollywood. Musicians don’t want their music played at the rallies of politicians they disagree with – they should just shut up and play. What do they know anyway? John Legend speaks out in support of criminal justice reform? Cardi B. speaks out against the shutdown? Alyssa Milano speaks out in support of #MeToo? Malcolm Jenkins on the Philadelphia Eagles displayed posters with reasons for criminal justice reform instead of giving a post-game interview? Who do these celebrities think they are?
Us. That’s who. They think – correction, they RIGHTLY think that because they live in this country, they can share their thoughts. It is the “Stay in Your Lane”-ers, the people who have no problem posting their views on any number of issues to any available platform, who feel that because someone is a “celebrity” or has some level of fame, that they have therefore relinquished their right to have a voice. And that’s not true, or fair. If Joe Schmoe can come out and voice his opinion, without being told to get back to plumbing or finance or advertising or construction, why should celebrities be forced to keep their opinions limited to their professions?
I’m not saying that celebrities should use their platforms to talk about anything and everything without taking the time to properly educate themselves on a topic (I’m looking at you, Ja Rule). Social media has given these individuals massive platforms, and it is imperative they reflect carefully on what views they are sharing with the public at large. At least one of my classmates, in writing about the role of influencers in the fiasco that was the Fyre Festival, touches on this. It is also what is so concerning about celebrities who very publicly espouse stances like the belief that vaccines cause autism.
I am saying that their opinions are just as valuable as ours, and there are definitely times when they are more informed than the average person. When they do choose to speak up, with informed, thoughtful opinions, we should pay attention. John Legend went to the University of Pennsylvania, for goodness sake! I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t get into the University of Pennsylvania on a good day. And unlike Cardi B., I couldn’t recite the presidents of the United States in chronological order if I wanted to.
I love the feeling of accessibility and closeness that social media provides. There is nothing quite like watching JK Rowling school the people in her Twitter comments, or seeing Ryan Reynolds embody #parentinggoals. Or watching Chrissy Teigen do literally anything on Twitter or Instagram (Chrissy, please never change).
While we enjoy these glimpses into the lives of our favorite celebrities, we can’t forget that they have real, valuable opinions about what is happening in the world. They may be breathing slightly more rarified air right now, but they often lived through similar situations, or studied them in college, or have family currently dealing with similar issues. Just because they’ve made their name in the entertainment world doesn’t mean they can’t add value anywhere else. Let’s be sure to allow celebrities to actually be human when we decide to humanize them.