Like many conservatives, I find myself rolling my eyes when Meryl Streep lectures America or when “Big Bang Theory” actor Simon Helberg protests President Trump’s policies at the Screen Actor’s Guild awards.
I’m not certain there is one way for celebrities to engage in politics or not. Plus conservatives and libertarians are admittedly giddy when one of a few celebrities takes to the stage to share a conservative or libertarian point of view.
But observe recent award shows, like Sunday’s Academy Awards, and you’ll notice a trend in the political expression of celebrities. And it’s not just the partisanship. Emma Stone wore a Planned Parenthood pin to the Oscars. Multiple celebrities sported the ACLU ribbon. RESIST Trump was a big theme at the Grammys.
Yes, these are all left-of-center causes, but they’re also already very popular and often seen as chic. It’s rare to see a celebrity speaking out for a political cause that isn’t trending or popular. One might wonder whether these celebrities are promoting causes because they are the most important and dearest to their hearts… or because they are popular and will best serve the careers of the celebrity.
The latter seems to be at least a part of the reason for celebrities, which gets to the heart of why so many Americans are frustrated with politics in Hollywood. It comes off as lazy skin-deep sanctimony used to boost their brand, not so much their purported cause, all while demonizing those who disagree.
It comes off as lazy skin-deep sanctimony used to boost their brand, not so much their purported cause, all while demonizing those who disagree.
Madonna once posed with a large globe to promote green issues, but now that isn’t edgy enough, so she publicly and profanely rants against Trump. Have her passions shifted? Or has her PR just followed trends?
There are certainly lesser-known, even bipartisan, policy causes behind which celebrities could throw support and make a big difference.
Consider civil asset forfeiture, which “allows law enforcement to seize cash and property without ever charging anyone with any crime.” Each year, the federal government alone takes billions of dollars from people who were not convicted of a crime, according to a report from the Institute for Justice (IJ).
Last year, police returned $53,000 they took using civil asset forfeiture from a Christian band, orphanage and church, but only after the story went viral. The story is unique only in that the money was returned. For far too many, this isn’t the case. What if celebrities on the red carpet talked about stories of people currently struggling with this?
What if celebrities on the red carpet talked about stories of people currently struggling with this?
Another issue with a good deal of bipartisan support is occupational licensing reform. We recently shared the story of a good Samaritan cutting hair for the homeless until the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology tried to stop him for cutting hair without a license. Thankfully, Gov. Doug Ducey stepped in to help him and make things right.
But this is, again, too often the exception to the rule.
In a lot of states, you need a license to braid hair. This has been a big problem for African-style hair braiders. Thankfully, IJ has taken up numerous such cases in different states. Some states license storytelling. In Savannah, Georgia, tour guides were required to obtain a license. The list goes on.
People fighting to live the lives they choose have an advocate in IJ, but more attention can often solve their problems more swiftly.
If celebrities are indeed focused on making a difference and not just promoting an already popular hashtag to boost their careers, they might consider dedicating some time to highlighting stories like those mentioned here. That would at least show some degree of courage missing from much of Hollywood’s posturing.
Shohana Weissmann is the Digital Director for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter .