I can’t begin to understand actors, actresses and other “entertainers” getting political. I understand that a lot of them don’t like the President or his policies, but using their position as a platform is often suspect. They’re using social media, television and other forms of digital media to promote their discourse. The problem is that they’re alienating the part of the country that disagrees with them. The people they’re calling “deplorables” are the same people who help them earn a living by buying tickets to a movie or downloading their music. It doesn’t make sense for them to “bite the hand that feeds them” as it were.
Hollywood and political diatribe have been walking side-by-side since even before the movies learned to talk. Charlie Chaplain was famous for poking fun at the government from both his silent movies (kicking an immigration official in “The Immigrant”) and especially when he did his first “talkie” (watch his speech from “The Great Dictator” and you’ll know why). Everyone knows about Jane Fonda and her visit to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War and how Vietnam Vets still hold it against her today.
So what’s different about today? I think that you can easily point to social media. With so many platforms to make a statement, artists use it to fuel the fire, and sometimes, it gets way too hot. Don’t get me wrong, this is America and everyone has the right to their own opinion. Freedom of Speech is an essential part of what makes America great, something that many other countries don’t have.
There are some artists that chose to make a statement and some who don’t. Take the Broadway musical “Hamilton” as an example. When Vice President Mike Pence decided to take his family to see the show, the cast decided to take the time to make a political statement against him and President Trump. Some people applauded their bold statement while others returned their tickets and vowed never to see the show. Did it affect their ticket sales? No, not really.
Then there’s the Dixie Chicks … remember them? They spoke out against President Bush and the Iraq War while performing overseas. Their records were burned, crushed and discarded. Some radio stations refused to play their music. While most music and media applauded their bravery for speaking out, the fans did not. They are no longer together and rarely perform, except when they want to make a stand for something else.
So there are many pros and cons for artists to get political. As a writer, I try to stay in the world of fantasy and avoid politics. The most political thing I did was in The Dark Tides where I named Chief B’Rak of Togo, a colony of former African slaves, after President Barrack Obama. I was going to name the Goblin King after him, but my wife thought that “crossed the line” and I agreed, so I changed it.
The one thing I do agree with is a statement made by actor Mark Wahlberg. In an interview, he said “A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn’t,” when speaking about politics. “They might buy your CD or watch your movie, but you don’t put food on their table. You don’t pay their bills. A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family.”
You can see who follows this philosophy by looking at who is out there speaking up and who is not. There are many who realize that people want actors and musicians to entertain them, not preach to them. Look at how successful politically charged movies have been over the past few years. I remember when anti-Iraq war movies came out, one after the other, at the end of the Bush Administration. They had A-List actors in them (Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in “Lambs for Lions” comes to mind) but they barely made a dent at the box office.
There is a time and a place for political commentary. Movies and TV shows like “Lone Survivor” and “24” address these charged political issues like terrorism, immigration and religious tolerance without taking sides or making a speech. They use it to entertain and let the audience make their own determination. That’s the fine line that other artists need to understand before they decide to go the way of the Dixie Chicks.
Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.