As a society, we have developed an expectation that ethically we shouldn’t use a specific position of power to push an unrelated agenda. In other words, most people would agree it would be inappropriate for President Barack Obama to use tonight’s State of the Union address to sell Amway products or for a church pastor to use the pulpit to stump for a political candidate. Yet for some reason we seem to give a pass to celebrities who use their platform as an actor, singer or athlete to spout off on issues that are completely unrelated to their profession. We wouldn’t tolerate a public school teacher using their position to teach children that evolution is the propaganda of monkeys, yet we tolerate celebrities who use their fame to push their own social or political agenda.
When Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” emerged from the swamplands of Louisiana to take a break from the normal routine of drinking beer and racing ATVs to give an interview, he chose to stray from waxing poetic about the art of duck whistling and instead gave a sermon on what he sees as the sin of homosexuality. Robertson inappropriately used his fun-loving redneck fame to inject his religious beliefs in such a vile way that it made Sherman’s rant seem like a Mr. Rogers monologue.
This past October, Rihanna performed a concert in Tel Aviv and, according to the Washington Times, offended many of her Israeli fans by refusing to mention Israel during the concert. Rihanna’s claim to fame is not as a qualified political analyst but as an entertainer who is known as much for hooking up with an abusive ex-boyfriend in the bathroom of a night club as her actual singing.
In the aftermath of Proposition 8 passing in California, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, Tom Hanks told Fox News he wasn’t exactly pleased The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly supported the proposition, saying, “There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them.” It’s fair to question the wisdom of Hanks choosing to alienate millions of American Mormons, who at some point have paid to see his movies, considering that, according to the Associated Press, exit polls show it was African-Americans and Latinos who provided the key support for Proposition 8. But then again, perhaps Hanks was drawing on his Forrest Gump character, who famously said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
The blatant arrogance of celebrities who use their fame to voice their political and social opinions is as harmful as it is reckless. Celebrities who choose to make negligent comments such as those made by Hanks and Robertson only serve to divide and alienate the public that supports them. At the end of the day, people watch movies starring Hanks and listen to Rihanna sing because of their extraordinary talents and not because of their misplaced opinions. These types of smug, prideful celebrities who think so much of themselves that they feel justified in using their fame as a sounding board for their opinions need to shut up. They are welcome to have opinions, but they are not welcome to inappropriately use their position to spread them. Perhaps the next time a self-indulgent celebrity is asked a question unrelated to their craft, they can dig deep down inside and utter two words that don’t get used nearly enough: “No comment.”