Blurring the line between the status of a politician and a celebrity is one which is becoming increasingly common through social media content such as ‘memes’ and ‘e-petitions’. The inexperience of Donald Trump is something most of us can agree on and complain about (Alan Sugar for PM next?) But, have the priorities and duties of politicians become entwined with the role of celebrities?
Is it the job of Tom Hanks to be trying to heal the discrepancies in the United States in response to their president elect? Since airing his concerns about the presidential election, using the analogy of an unqualified dentist to show his concerns about Trump and in comparison to his confidence in Clinton. More recently Hanks projected his political views on the future of the United States during his speech at the ‘Museum of Modern Art’s Film Benefit’, telling the audience: ‘we are going to be all right’. Hanks’ increasingly political remarks have had a huge social media response, a Facebook group titled; Tom Hanks for President was created in March 2016 and Hanks has received questions from reporters about the calls from the public for him to begin a career in politics. To which Hanks responded: ‘Just because I’m an actor, I can give a good speech, I agree with that. But the concept of actually voting for someone just because they can do that?’, Hanks clearly recognises the absurdity of these remarks, so why don’t the public?
People might argue that Ronald Reagan was an actor who managed to become president of the United States and suggest that celebrities and politics have been overlapping way before the 2016 US election. Reagan was the 40th president of the US and held office between 1981 and 1989. The difference between his election and the calls for Tom Hanks to run for president was his experience in politics. Reagan was the Governor of California for eight years prior to his presidential bid.
Similarly, the endorsement given by Russell Brand towards ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband in the run up to the UK 2015 general election was seen as a huge swing for Labour to gain the youth vote. Are we putting too much emphasis and importance on celebrities and their endorsement for politicians instead of focusing on the issues and the credentials of candidates?
This was repeated by Hillary Clinton’s many celebrity supporters who she appeared on a platform with (remember the confusing picture of Clinton and Katy Perry?) Rather than appealing to voters, with her many celebrity endorsements, she undermined the political process. Using celebrities was a publicity stunt aimed at broadening her appeal to younger voters, or voters who may not be as politically engaged.
I am not saying that politics and celebrities should not overlap. In many ways suggesting they shouldn’t overlap takes celebrities right to free speech away. Some celebrities have fresh perspectives on politics and have the ability to mobilise people through their popularity and growing passion for an issue. For example, Russell Brand’s YouTube channel ‘The Trews’ is very popular and allows viewers (usually of the younger generation) to discuss issues and politics in a way that is more down to earth and relatable for them. But I think we need to be concerned about the level of influence we are giving celebrities in relation to politics, and the confusing overlap between the two. We need to be focusing on policy when casting our votes and supporting someone, not about their celebrity endorsements.