Do celebrities have an obligation to speak out on political issues

Aoife McMahon

Making a political statement has almost become as popular as thanking your manager when it comes to celebrities’ acceptance speeches.

Was Ricky Gervais right to tell celebrities to shut up and that they are in “no position to lecture the public”? At the 2020 Golden Globes, Gervais held nothing back in his opening monologue when he told the audience that they shouldn’t use this as a platform to make a political statement because they “know nothing about the real world.”

This caused quite the stir and opinions were mixed on whether he was right to say this. While harsh, I believe it’s about time someone said it so openly and plainly at an award ceremony.

Most of us live completely different lives to celebrities. They don’t tend to struggle to make the mortgage or student loan payments, they can easily afford childcare and they don’t have to support a family on minimum wage. 

I usually agree with the political statements that celebrities make. I agree with those who say no one should vote for Trump, I support equal pay, a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage and gay adoption and I believe everyone needs to do more to combat climate change.

However, if a famous person speaks out against one of these issues, I wouldn’t support them, and I don’t think it would be acceptable for someone with a big following to publicly oppose these issues. In order to not be completely hypocritical, I must reject the idea that celebrities should use their platform to make political statements at all. 

Why don’t celebrities stick to lecturing each other instead of us? Perhaps if people want to help the planet, they should combat the Hollywood hypocrisy and lecture the people in the room and not us at home. If they want to positively impact climate change instead of telling the people to cut out plastics or drive less, tell the rich and famous to get rid of their private jets or helicopters. 

Everyone has the right to lecture the government, which by default must include celebrities. No one can really say they don’t have the right to campaign for a party or share their political views. You would have to urge celebrities to really think about what they are saying and ensure that they are experts on something before they publicly announce their opinions. 

Some might dismiss this issue by saying that celebrities don’t have as much influence as I am making out that they do. If we take Taylor Swift, for example, she is credited with getting a substantial amount of people to register to vote in 2018.

While they can’t say how many people exactly she got to register, the site vote.org, that usually has around 14k visitors a day, saw 155K people visit the site in the 24 hours after Swift posted an Instagram encouraging people to register to vote.

I think Gervais said it best when he told the celebrities to just thank their agent and their God, and in a less polite way, get off the stage.

By Aoife McMahon

Image: Sonja Tutty