Do celebrities represent the average man or woman? Do they embody the struggles that everyday people constantly experience?
These questions are ones that are being asked more than ever it seems. In this current political climate, the level of unprecedented events and decisions orchestrated by political figures seems to be enough reason for people who are otherwise separated from politics to use their platform either for or against various topics. This, however, does not mean that their right to state these opinions is always appreciated by others.
In 2016, the National Football League began receiving attention that strangely enough did not concern the sport itself but rather the actions of former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick. The African-American player brought a lot of attention to himself when he decided to stay seated and later kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before each game. When asked about why he had decided to take this stance rather than standing with fellow players, managers and fans, Kaepernick stated that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
While many stood in solidarity with Kaepernick, others were also quick to stop supporting him and partly the NFL too, as seen in the drop in their ratings around the time of his peaceful protest. Conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren vehemently criticised Kaepernick stating that “I’ve got loved ones overseas right now fighting for your right to sit on a bench and bitch and moan about your perceived oppression while making $19 million dollars a year to throw a ball, so show a little respect.”
The link that Lahren made here is similar to what many others make and why we posed the questions at the beginning of this article. There seems to be a belief that people who are wealthy, successful, or famous should refrain from discussing greater political, social, and economic issues due to their ‘detachment’ with the ‘real world’. This, of course, is understandable – how does someone who makes more in one week that most people will make in their entire lifetime relate to the common man’s struggle? What people seem to ignore, however, is that the rich and famous ‘Hollywood elite’ are not always born into these privileged positions. Most people that we know and love who are often discussed in the media are more symbolic of the results of social mobility rather than inherited wealth and luxury. Therefore, to say that someone who may have lived the majority of their life as a ‘normal’ person does not seem compelling enough.
Additionally, with the wide reach of social media in today’s world, are we as a society suggesting that we do not accept and understand that some of the most known people to have ever walked this earth should not use their influence for a purpose. Albeit, there are many times when this power source is abused and manipulated, but when the most followed person on Twitter (Katy Perry) has 105 million followers and the most followed person on Instagram (Selena Gomez) has 128 million followers – a number only surpassed by 10 countries’ populations in the world – then why should they be stopped from speaking out about issues that they feel passionate about if they believe they can reach enough people in the world to make a difference?
Words: Keisha Schneider
Hashtags: #hollywood #colinkaepernick #politics #racism #equality #sports