The political right in America complains about celebrities and the “Hollywood elite” the way that everyone else complains about Mondays. There was quite a bit of irony surrounding this phenomenon before the 2016 election. The right loves to play the victim card and claim that liberals are engaging in class warfare when raising taxes on the wealthy is brought up. Then, they turn around and rail against celebrities, actors and musicians who speak out politically because they are rich and famous and therefore must be out-of-touch with reality. The only time in recent history that the right has supported a celebrity’s political opinion was when Mark Wahlberg said that celebrities should not express political opinions.
The conflict between Hollywood and the right appears set to be elevated from an ongoing skirmish to an all out war. Meryl Streep fired one of the first shots at the Golden Globes in an eloquent, if somewhat tone-deaf, appeal for decency in the highest levels of political office. And amazingly, shockingly, disappointingly, maddeningly, it was not just right-wing political commentators that fired back at her (as they are wont to do), but Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States (at the time), also sounded off on Streep. Let’s put that into context. The president-elect of the United States attacked a private citizen on Twitter for expressing herself and imploring him to be less of a bully, ironically. We can only assume this will be the first of many times that Trump will take it upon himself to attack a celebrity that speaks out against him. After all, there will be about 40-50 major award shows televised during Trump’s term, leaving ample opportunities for celebrities to express their displeasure about Trump or his far-right agenda.
All of this is kind of expected. Celebrities criticize conservative politicians as predictably as dogs chase cats. But the rise of Trump brings forth fresh irony in all this, and it deals directly with who Trump is (claims to be at least) and what his supporters love about him. Here is a short-list of some qualities that Trump’s political supporters, in their own words, like most about him:
“Not controlled by anybody else”
“Tells it like it is”
And most importantly: “Not a politician”
Now, wouldn’t that same list of words perfectly describe Meryl Streep? Or George Clooney? Or Beyoncé? They are all at the top of their game, not beholden to anyone, and passionate about political causes. Yet we are told by conservative commenters and politicians that celebrities are out of touch elites. Meanwhile, they put another out-of-touch elite (a New York billionaire that had his own TV show with the word “celebrity” in the title) into the White House. Donald Trump should have broken the conservative talking point that celebrities don’t belong in politics. His ascendance into political relevancy should have vindicated every other celebrity that spoke out on behalf of any political cause they cared about. But that is not what will happen. This irony will be lost on everyone on the right. The only thing we will pull from this is yet another piece of proof that most people just want to hear an echo of their own political stances and want very badly to not hear what the other side has to say. For conservatives their qualm is not with who is delivering the message and whether they are in touch with “real-America”, it’s simply that they don’t like the message. If they don’t like something they hear from a celebrity the excuse about why it should be dismissed is built-in to their celebrity status. Further proof: you never seem to hear conservatives telling Ted Nugent to keep his politics to himself… and Trump certainly wasn’t cast from the flock despite desperately wanting to portray himself as a celebrity.
This is not intended to be yet another article outlining how divided we are as a nation, that’s ground well-trodden. We think there may be one worthwhile lesson here: don’t dismiss anyone because of who they are. Many on the left who dismissed Donald Trump and his new-found political beliefs are reeling from the realization of how many others in the country share those beliefs. And the right would be wise to learn the same lesson. Listen to what everyone has to say. Listening, understanding, and accepting someone else’s beliefs as valid does not invalidate what you believe. There is no need to squash dissenting opinion or discredit people because of who they are. Listen to Meryl. Listen to George. Listen to your neighbor Ralph. Listen to your coworker. Listen to the guy behind you in line at the grocery store. Then decide what you believe and live that truth.