Celebrities and Politics

The Curmudgeon doesn’t disagree with a word Meryl Streep said in her political address during last week’s Golden Globes award show.

But he hates that she said it on national television on an entertainment program having nothing to do with politics or public affairs.

Hates that an actor – or a singer or an athlete or any manner of celebrity – gets a platform that ordinary people do not.

Unless the subject is movies or acting, why would anyone care what she has to say about anything?

Unless the subject is movies or acting, why would anyone care what she has to say about anything?

Because really, who gives a damn what they think?

This is not a new idea rattling around in The Curmudgeon’s head. It actually started careening around in that vast, mostly empty space more than 20 years ago when a couple of actors, who will remain nameless because their identity doesn’t matter – okay, it was Mike Farrell and Ed Asner – traveled to Philadelphia to protest the continued imprisonment of a man convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer.

The Curmudgeon’s first thought was “Why are they here?”

His second thought was “What do they think they know about this case that those of us who have been living with it for years don’t already know?”

And his third thought, the thought that’s relevant to this subject, was “Why do these guys get such a public platform to tell us what they think about this matter?”

And it’s been that was ever since for The Curmudgeon. He just hates when celebrities tell us whom to vote for or what to think about the issues of the day.

To be fair, he has no problem with a celebrity answering a question about his or her views. When a question is asked. That seems only fair.

But getting on a stage and telling us what to think and who to vote for when that’s not why they’re on the stage? Two reactions: first, who cares? And second, how dare they? Who the hell do they think they are?

Think about the Democratic convention this summer and some of the “celebrity” speakers.

The only question was whether she would say anything inappropriate.

The only question was whether she would say anything inappropriate.

Sarah Silverman.

Lena Dunham.

America Ferrara.

Lee Daniels.

Why should any of us give a rat’s ass what these people think?

The argument that having celebrities attracts viewers doesn’t do much for The Curmudgeon. Attracts viewers? To what end? Do you think people who tuned in to see if Sarah Silverman can manage to speak for two whole minutes without uttering the word “vagina” were going to continue watching the Democrats when the senior senator from New York took the podium to talk about jobs? Does anyone believe that someone who watched only to see the star of Ugly Betty wasn’t going to change the channel when the governor of Virginia started to talk about health care?

The last week of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was particularly disgusting: everywhere she went she had an entourage of celebrities accompanying her. To be fair to at least some of those celebrities, they weren’t there to tell us who to vote for: they were there to perform and, in theory, to help attract people to Clinton’s rallies. But again – to what end? How many people do you think came to hear Beyonce perform and then stayed when Clinton started talking about jobs? They either left or tuned her out. They were there for the free concert, but The Curmudgeon absolves these celebrities from this blame because they were there as attractions, not as shrill advocates with no particular expertise to bring to bear on the subject.

In truth, The Curmudgeon started writing this piece about six hours before Meryl Streep mounted her soapbox. (By the way, a relevant side note: The Curmudgeon believes Streep is an amazing actor. He believes any movie she’s in is automatically worth seeing simply because of her presence, so this has nothing to do with her.) What set him off? Reading that earlier that day Fox News had featured an interview with retired game show host Chuck Woolery complaining about performers’ opposition to President-elect Trump. Woolery questioned why anyone would take direction from people who …”pretend to be other people for a living.”

Seriously:  political commentary from the host of "Love Connection"?

Seriously: political commentary from the host of “Love Connection”?

Woolery’s right, of course – but then, why should anyone be interested in anything Chuck Woolery has to say, either? After all, he’s…Chuck Woolery! And why would Fox News, which clearly doesn’t like the political views of most A-list, B-list, and C-list celebrities, give a similar platform to a G-list celebrity like Chuck Woolery, of all people?

In the end, The Curmudgeon doesn’t begrudge celebrities their opinions. If they want to share them, though, they should do it in places where the subject is politics or public affairs. Does Meryl Streep want to talk politics? The Curmudgeon is reasonably confident that Rachel Maddow would be pleased to have her as a guest, as would, say, Anderson Cooper or the Today Show. But people tune into the Golden Globes for entertainment: to hear some music, to see the silly costumes people are wearing, to hear jokes, to see stars, and in the case of that particular program, to hear people talk a lot about how much they’re drinking and to see the effects of all that alcohol consumption. They’re tuning in for entertainment, not to hear about politics and certainly not to be lectured by anyone, let alone a movie star. If they wanted politics they would have been watching MSNBC or Fox News.

So Ms. Streep, The Curmudgeon hopes you keep making movies until you’re 100 years old because you’re truly a treasure. And if a reporter solicits your opinion on the issues of the day, by all means, speak to your heart’s content. And there’s always Rachel Maddow. But unless someone asks, please keep it to yourself, and if you’re appearing on an entertainment program that has nothing to do with politics or public affairs, spare us all and take those opinions and shove them up your ass.

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