Should Celebrities use Award Shows to Express their Political Beliefs?

Maddie Pfeifer, Editor

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With award season upon us, many talented men and women are taking home Golden Globes and SAGs while also finding ways to make political statements. Celebrities expressing their political beliefs during acceptance speeches is far from uncommon, but the question still remains: Should they be using these award shows as a platform to talk about politics?

Sunday, January 29th, was the night of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. This award show is known to predict Academy Award winners so many tuned in to watch. As celebrity after celebrity went up on stage, they decided to use their time to talk about politics, with many specifically focusing President Trump’s recent executive order implementing an immigration ban from several countries.

Opening the show, actor Ashton Kutcher set the tone for what the rest of the night would be like. “Good evening, fellow SAG-AFTRA members, and everyone at home, and everyone in airports that belong in my America,” Kutcher stated. “You are a part of the fabric of who we are. And we love you and we welcome you.”

Kutcher was clearly referencing the immigration ban. It was evident at this moment that the night’s ceremonies would be overshadowed with celebrities expressing political stances.

Another Hollywood icon who chose to speak out on their political beliefs was actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. During her acceptance speech for best actress in a comedy series, she explained what it meant for her to be an American. “I’m an American patriot,” she stated. “And I love this country, and because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish, and it is un-American.” The recent immigration ban was the most talked about and referenced topic of the night, and Louis-Dreyfus wasted no time in getting to her point.

It is very apparent that our country is in disarray and struggling to cope with our new President. Especially with his recent actions, it makes a lot of sense that people would be upset and want to share their own opinions on the matter. However, by using award shows to do this, they are taking away from the whole point of the show.

Award shows should be about recognizing all of the talented men and women in Hollywood who work hard every day to put out art. When an actor or actress or writer or director goes on stage to accept their award, they should be recognizing everyone who worked on their winning project, not discussing politics.

While these celebrities have every right to express their opinions and it is indeed necessary to bring attention to the problems in our country, I just do not think that award shows should be the platform they use. The speeches ranged from being warm and welcoming toward Muslims, to critical of President Trump, and either way, I think that these opinions could have been discussed elsewhere.

All of the speeches about President Trump only distracted from the whole point of the SAGs. From the very start, the night was about politics, and the President, and celebrities promoting their own political beliefs. I completely agree that politics need to be discussed during these challenging times, but I also think it is up to the everyday citizens (the majority of the American people) to do so. What makes a celebrity’s political opinion more important than a normal person’s? Absolutely nothing. Yes, the level of influence is different, but should it be? I just do not think certain people’s political beliefs should necessarily be held in a higher regard than another’s.

So when it really comes down to it, I do not think that award shows are the time nor the place for celebrities to push their political beliefs. It is extremely important for us as a nation to talk about politics and to bring awareness to the injustices we see, but there are other platforms to do so. While I still do not think celebrities’ opinions should be held with a higher regard, I understand their influence, which is why I think they should use other platforms such as social media to promote political opinions.

Unfortunately, the SAGs lost its meaning and was overshadowed by politics. One can only expect the same to happen on Sunday, February 26, at Hollywood’s biggest night, the Academy Awards.

Five of the ten feature-length and short documentaries nominated for Oscars this year are directly or indirectly about refugees and many of the creators of these documentaries wanted to bring their subjects to the ceremonies. However, many of these subjects are from one of the seven Muslim-majority countries that President Trump’s immigration ban restricts from entering the United States.

These circumstances are extremely unfortunate and people have a right to be upset. They have a right to be upset with the President. And they even have the right to speak out about it. However, the Oscar’s stage is not the place to do so.

Only time will tell what will happen when the night of the Academy Awards arrive. With political tensions rising, it seems quite likely that celebrities will take their political beliefs to the stage. However, it is my hope that they do not do so; otherwise, the Academy Awards may end up just like the SAGs, overshadowed by political beliefs, thus eliminating a much needed refuge from the constant and rampant talk of politics saturating our country.

Creative Commons Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/3001714270