Celebrity Activists in Contemporary Society
Works Cited Not Included
According to the book Celebrity Politics, approximately 10 percent of Americans get national political news from nightly entertainment shows such as the Tonight Show. For Americans under 30, the number is nearly five times as many (Orman and West 100). Citizens are looking to be entertained rather than simply educated by the nightly news. As David Schultz aptly put it, “ The new media cover politics, but only politics as it entertains, in part, because the audience the new media attract is a less politically interested audience than traditional news audiences” (20). The fact is that this American audience is less interested in hard news and more interested in entertainment, which has made celebrities effective activists and endorsers of aid organizations in this increasingly celebrity-obsessed society.
Americans “expect, for example, that political campaigns for President will be replete with show biz” (Combs 124). It is no longer good enough for politicians to be defined by their stances on issues, and by the support of different political organizations. Politicians have to be able to provide the citizens with a show, something that will keep them curious and entertained; they need, in fact, celebrity power. Because of this, in order to raise awareness and support for their causes, advocacy organizations have also tapped into the celebrity craze.
One area in which celebrities have become extremely involved is that of political campaigns. Politicians want celebrity endorsements in order to become more visible and more popular with different age groups. One survey shows that forty percent of 18 to 24 year olds were influenced by celebrities’ support of a political candidate, as opposed to 14.6 percent of older adults (Atkinson 1). In the past, it was important as a political candidate to have the endorsement of certain parties and unions; now, it is just as important to have the support of celebrities (Combs 123). The most notable case of a politician using celebrity endorsers is that of former President Ronald Reagan, a former B-list actor himself. Some of his supporters in 1980 included James Cagney, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Hoagy Carmichael (West and Orman 38).
The growing connection between politics and Hollywood has happened for a number of reasons, in a somewhat cyclical fashion. Politicians need Hollywood stars to support their campaigns because celebrities are useful in fundraising attempts and recognition. They have the advantages of fame, wealth, and can easily command press attention. In return, celebrities endorse candidates whose policies are beneficial to their industry. For example, while Clinton was in office he argued for “industry self-regulation and a television rating system, as opposed to formal government regulation” (Ormand and West 38). For this and other reasons, Hollywood stars donated large sums of money to Democratic...