We've become a nation of people who genuinely believe only some people are allowed to have opinions. This isn't a recent thing; it's been a part of the fabric of our collective lives a very long time. What's also constant is resistance to this idea; civil rights, women's rights, gay rights - any modern social movement is built on the idea that opinions and beliefs need to be heard even if they are unpopular or challenging to the status quo. This is one of the things I love about being an American.
One group who always seem to be on the wrong side of this debate are celebrities and famous people. No matter what the political climate is here in the US, there's always one thing all Americans are able to agree on: celebrities and famous people should keep their opinions to themselves. We non-famous people seem to believe that because they're famous they can't be educated or have opinions or, I don't know, exercise their right to free speech just like we can. Famous people aren't real people; they are here simply for our entertainment and in many cases, derision.
Personally, I think this is bullshit. I don't always agree with the things that come out of celebrities' mouths and sometimes the stuff they say is bananas or downright hateful but I'm not going to stop them from saying it. What I do instead is stop paying attention to them or giving them my money. When Tom Cruise made all those comments about mental health a few years back, I stopped watching his movies. I haven't seen one since and don't plan to watch one in the near future. I boycott Tom Cruise. A more recent example is my feelings about Madonna at the Women's March. I've loved Madonna ever since I learned all the choreography to "Lucky Star" and I was super glad she was there just as I was glad to see many of the famous people who spoke or performed. She was being the feminist icon we all know and love BUT, I was disappointed in her comments about blowing up the White House. It was inappropriate and completely against the spirit of the event. I'm not boycotting Madonna but she gave people something completely ridiculous to point to as a "problem" with the Women's March.
That's where I believe celebrities and famous people (I'm using these phrases interchangeably although they're not the same thing) could improve. It's not that they're not allowed to have opinions, it's that they need to think about the way in which they share those opinions. We advise young people to think carefully about the way they portray themselves on social media and in public. Famous people need to remember this applies to them too. They have an audience regardless of what they're doing and whether they like it or not, everyone is listening all the time. That's what so many celebrities get wrong; it's not just about what they're saying, it's the power behind it. Beyonce announced she's pregnant with twins this week and 8 million people liked her photo. That's power. It's like Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, "with great power comes great responsibility." Use your power for good, celebrities. Many celebrities do, getting behind great causes and things they believe in. From Audrey Hepburn to Bono to Emma Waston, there's great work being done out there by the famous people among us.
One of the reasons I enjoy Twitter despite it frequently devolving into a festering dumpster fire of human awfulness, is celebrities on Twitter. I'm picky about the celebrities I follow; they tend to all be artists I admire and enjoy not people I'm hoping will do or say something stupid. I can still remember the day Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy had a tweet exchange that made me long for the days of watching Pretty in Pink on repeat. This is why Twitter exists! I think George Takei may be one of my favorites; he's funny, political, smart, and stinging all at the same time. So good. Comedians on Twitter are also a delight; most of them have been training for the 140 character limit their whole professional lives. Patton Oswalt is among my favorites. He's a national treasure and I will fight anyone who wants to fight about this. Twitter also gives us all access to small nuggets of content in quick fashion. It's almost like it was designed to be a meaner, slightly more cat video filled version of the highlights reel style shows on ESPN; we get the things we need without having to watch an entire broadcast of anything.
Which brings me to the main point of today's post (I know, I've been rambling). But first a quick reminder:
It's no secret that I love Chief Jim Hopper from the Netflix series Stranger Things. He is the true hero of Hawkins. I am patiently waiting for season two. Where did he go in that car at the end? Why was he taking Eggos into the woods? Is he going to hook up with Joyce (please say no)? Does he ever go anywhere without his hat? Are mornings truly for coffee and contemplation? I need answers.
David Harbour, who portrays Hopper, is a phenomenal actor and another wonderful addition to the Twitterverse. He, like so many of the celebrities I follow, has a good handle on how to mix politics, commentary, and humor into his social media presence. I enjoy his exchanges with Patton Oswalt and his updates from the world of Stranger Things. He admits his privilege and appreciates when his fans call him out on this, something we can all appreciate. I don't watch award shows all that often anymore so I missed the Screen Actors Guild Awards broadcast last week. However, Twitter let me know that not only did Stranger Things win the award for outstanding ensemble drama series (an upset apparently), but that Mr. Harbour delivered an impassioned speech about the responsibility of actors to use their craft to change the world. If you haven't seen the speech, watch it now (try to ignore Winona Ryder's weird facial expressions):
This is my favorite part:
“We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters! And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the weak and the disenfranchised and the marginalized! And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility.”
How awesome is that? There's nothing overtly political, no selfish motivations, no crazy philosophy. It's a person, albeit a famous one, speaking eloquently about his work and the power that art has to change the world. This is the perfect example of a celebrity using his power for good. He could have gotten up there and said ridiculous things or hateful things but he didn't. He used the platform he has to make a powerful statement of inclusion and the power of art. Since the speech, Harbour has been lauded for his comments from the famous and not famous. Since I follow him on Twitter, I see some of this in my Twitter feed and it was remarkably pleasant. I'm sure there were critics but I haven't seen many. Harbour was able to use a very public platform in a very political way without being overtly political or divisive. This gives me hope.
If David Harbour isn't your style (and I'm questioning your life choices for that one), check out another very responsible celebrity, Sam Waterston, writing a piece for The Washington Post. I had no idea my second favorite person on the original Law & Order series was this involved in working with refugees. He comes very close to calling the President "a lying liar who lies" (one of my favorite phrases) but that would seem childish and we wouldn't want that.
Thank you David Harbour for using your power for good. Keep at it and please get season two here as quickly as possible (I realize this is not really within your control).
Next week: Stuff I Love continues with a look at fashion and how to dress like a woman, Lazy Movie Weekend style.
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