In today’s political climate, it is no longer enough to operate in moderation if you are in a position of power and claim to support justice.
There has been a long-held debate on the role and effectiveness of celebrity activism and on whether or not entertainers should be held accountable for using their expansive platforms to push the agenda of social movement forward or amplify the message of those who need it most.
Now, no one can really force any public figure to champion certain platforms because, in the end, they choose what to speak up for and what not to. The problem therein lies with the superficial activism that actually hides a boneless moderation for issues these figures supposedly “fight for” or support.
Perhaps the easiest example of this is white feminism in the entertainment industry.
From the racist, self-absorbed “feminist humor” of the Lena Dunham/Amy Schumer duo to Meryl Streep’s (yes even Streep) “we’re all Africans” copout during a Berlin film festival, white feminism continues to undermine the issues of people of color in its selective empowerment of wealthy, white women.
These celebs look to embody the ideals of equality without possessing the willingness to get out into the field and fight for justice or take the time to understand the nuance that intersectionality plays in their activism. This ignorance, willful or not, breeds a harmful hypocrisy that does more to harm than good for such causes.
This hypocrisy is epitomized in Selena Gomez’s tone-deaf take idealization of suicide and sexual assault on her show 13 Reasons Why and her upcoming role on a project with filmmaker and alleged sexual assaulter, Woody Allen. On a similar note, her best friend and all-American pop star, Taylor Swift, continues to remain a phantom in conversations about world issues, race, politics, and anything pertaining to women of color, while simultaneously not shying away from pettily recycling age-old celebrity beef in her music.
But why care if celebrities like Swift and Gomez participate at all in issues that permeate all levels of society in the current day? They’re celebrities, right? We shouldn’t be disappointed in their lack of political and social awareness/action.
Except that we should.
Moderation has forever been an unrelenting obstacle of progress, and particularly because people in a place of privilege or power do not feel the need to contribute in the fight for justice or are given a pass for not doing so simply because the issues do not pertain to them.
What’s frustrating when public figures like Swift choose to remain silent on important cultural and sociopolitical issues is the lost potential for change.
We have seen the power in standing up for change when Beyoncé donated $1.5 million to Black Lives Matter, bailed out arrested protesters and more recently raised money for Puerto Rico, when Shailene Woodley was arrested as she protested the Dakota pipeline, and when Cher continued to vocalize the Flint water crisis while also donating water herself. They possess a rare power in which their influence has the ability to reach a massive audience malleable to new ideas and progress, but many only ever wield such power for personal or corporate gain. Their silence is not only disappointing or a disturbing indication of a lack of basic human empathy, but it also only benefits the system of the oppressors.
Celebrity culture has shaped a generation of youth and their perception of not only entertainment but society as a whole. In Trump’s America, the moderation of persons of influence is as destructive as active efforts to delegitimize movements of progress.
So let’s hope that they learn to use their impact for, what Selena Gomez rather ironically put, “something that fucking matters.”