FEATURE — January 11, 2019 at 7:19 am

Celebrities use platforms to become social and political activists

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Actress Alyssa Milano speaks about the importance of voting at the Actions for Change event in Parkland, Florida on Sept. 30. Photo by Nyan Clarke

The idea of political activism has become increasingly prevalent in today’s society. With the increase of social media, many people have shared their political views, as well as endorsed particular candidates while making their opinions known. One particular group of people have been using their platforms to speak out about controversial issues: celebrities.

The mere definition of a celebrity is someone that is always in the spotlight, which leaves a very small amount of their personal life private. However, some celebrities have embraced this unique platform they have and choose to share their political views with the world while influencing their fanbase’s beliefs.

“I think it’s important for celebrities to voice their opinions because a lot of people, especially in younger generations, see them as role models,” Politics Club Adviser Ariel Hertz said. “I think that they [celebrities] should use their opportunity and platform that they have as people that are very active on social media and have a lot of followers to, not necessarily sway people one way or the other, but to maybe just educate them on relevant, important topics.”

Taylor Swift, who has remained quiet about politics in the past, recently shared her political views with the public. In October, Swift turned to Instagram to explain who she planned to vote for and why she believes voting is important. For Swift, a candidate’s view on human rights is a major deciding factor, which led her to endorse Tennessee Democrats Phil Bredesen for the U.S. Senate and Jim Cooper for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” Swift’s Instagram post said. “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love.”

According to Vote.org, within 24 hours of the post, there was a voter registration spike of 65,000 people. Out of those newly registered voters, more than half were between the ages of 18 and 29. There was also an increase in the voter registration in Swift’s home state of Tennessee. Of the 2,811 newly registered voters in September, 2,144 of them registed directly after Swift’s post.

“I believe that celebrities should share their political views in order to increase a higher voter turnout,” junior Seth Klein said. “Celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande have such large audiences, and they have the power to make a change.”

Another celebrity that is very upfront about her political views is Miley Cyrus. On March 24, 2018, Cyrus stood alongside MSD students at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.

“This is what my foundation represents, which is young people coming together to change the way that history has been written before us,” Cyrus said in an interview with the Eagle Eye. “Right now [young people are] changing what our future is going to be and making this world acceptable and safe for everyone.”

Cyrus’ nonprofit organization, The Happy Hippie Foundation, has been continuously advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, since its creation in 2014. After President Donald Trump’s statement that the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex, many celebrities, such as actresses Alyssa Milano and Sara Ramirez, have joined Cyrus to voice their opinions on the issue through social media.

Shortly after the statement, Milano took to Instagram with the picture “Trans rights are human rights.” Milano captioned the picture with “Voting is how we protect each other,” and has also posted several times about the importance of registering to vote.

Milano showed her support by attending the Actions For Change event on Sept. 30, 2018, held in Parkland, Florida. Additionally, Milano delivered a speech touching on the importance of voting and activism, and spoke with students and teachers from the MSD community.

“Any time that you feel something about an issue, and it is an issue that is not easily fixed we have to keep beating the drum, keep raising awareness, keep putting it in front of people so that they don’t forget to make it better,” Milano said in an interview with the Eagle Eye. “There is no way that we are going to win any of these battles if we do not have students, young people using their voices to create this change.”

These are not the only celebrities following this new trend of activism. Actor Mark Ruffalo has joined March For Our Lives organizers in increasing voter registration and voter turnout within the U.S. Ruffalo appeared on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” alongside MSD alumna Delaney Tarr and senior Jaclyn Corin before the midterm elections to talk about the importance of being politically active.

“We started an organization called We Stand United, and we were getting so many calls from celebrities saying ‘what can I do; this is so crazy that we are in this movement in the United States,’” Ruffalo said during the interview. “We decided to get the celebrities to get the light and then put the people who really have something to say in the light.”

In addition to encouraging voter registration and casting a vote, many celebrities have stressed the importance of their fans voicing their own opinions. Throughout countless Instagram posts, Milano has reminded others to become educated and know what their candidates stand for. Additionally, Milano provides resources so that her followers can become educated.

However, other people believe that celebrities should stick to focusing on their careers, not politics. While having such a large platform to voice their views, celebrities also have the potential to influence their fans in a negative way. If a person votes for a candidate just because their favorite celebrity did, then they did not make an informed enough decision.

“I feel like celebrities are constantly marketing themselves in everything they do, even if they do not realize it,” junior Max Wolfman said. “Today, any celebrity in the public eye is constantly getting ripped apart for every decision they make, and I feel voicing political opinions is a situation for disaster. Giving people a reason to dislike you is never a good idea and voicing political opinions does just that. I feel celebrities will be more successful if they do not voice their political opinions and focus on what made them famous in the first place.”

While living in the spotlight, celebrities are looked to, today more than ever, to be a guide and role model in the world of politics. Even though some may disagree with this new role that some celebrities have taken on, the trend has been on a rise within recent years. 

This story was originally published in the January 2019 Eagle Eye print edition. 

Brianna Fisher

Brianna Fisher is a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the co Editor in Chief of the Eagle Eye. She loves being a part of the newspaper staff!! Brianna hopes to go into criminal justice when she is older to help those in need.

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