Celebrity activism: Providing platforms in polarized climate
During this very polarized period, activism is a huge part of our culture, whether it be about police brutality, climate change or gender equality. Activism is very important in order to bring change in this society and now it's being done by celebrities more than ever.
Some people may have issues with this because celebrities are taken less seriously than activists. Their political messages are later forgotten due to them constantly being in the spotlight for other reasons.
But, celebrities do make an impact when trying to promote change. While they may not have more knowledge about certain subjects than activists do, but they have a bigger audience and platform to reach people, than activists may have.
For example, Tarana Burke has been an activist for women against sexual harassment on Twitter for over a decade, but her movement only gained momentum and recognition due to one tweet from actress Alyssa Milano. A tweet from a celebrity gave momentum to the entire #MeToo movement which has spanned the globe.
The same thing happened when Michelle Obama used her platform on Twitter to raise awareness for kidnapped Nigerian girls. The world paid attention to her and raised awareness of this huge issue.
Another celebrity who has used their fame to help bring awareness to certain issues is Kim Kardashian. When she decided to study law in order to take up criminal justice reform, she met President Donald J. Trump at the White House and helped free Alice Marie Johnson.
To illustrate this further, when Taylor Swift began to talk about politics, voter registration instantly spiked to 65,000 in the first 24 hours.
There are some cons of having celebrities support these causes. Because we are bombarded with so much information about celebrities and their scandals, lifestyle and gossip daily, their activist messages and goals tend to be put in the backseat, sometimes in favor of the more entertaining aspects about them.
For example, Malala Yousafzai is a figurehead for women’s rights education, but she isn't put under the spotlight every second because she isn't as famous as a celebrity. Emma Watson is also a champion for women’s rights but she is more recognized and known for being an actress in “Harry Potter” movies, rather than being a women's rights activist. Her fashion, movies and lifestyle are shown more in the media than her activist side.
People know Leonardo DiCaprio as an Academy Award-winning actor, but he is also a major indigenous rights and environmental activist. Unfortunately, his movies and his 23-year age gap with his current girlfriend are seen as more important in the media rather than his activism.
Similar to Yousafzai, despite Al Gore being a huge environmental activist and also probably being more knowledgeable about the subject, he isn’t under the spotlight or in the media compared to DiCaprio, because he isn’t an actor.
But, Greta Thunberg breaks this pattern of fame. Although she is an activist for the environment, she is being treated as a celebrity because she is the daughter of an opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg. Due to her parents, she is more aware of how to use the media to work for her goals and mission.
Similar to celebrities who are invited to talk shows to discuss their crazy lifestyle or the organization they are raising money for, Thunberg was also invited to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to talk about her goals, mission and lifestyle as an activist.
Thunberg has embodied her activist views of cutting carbon gas emissions by becoming vegan and giving up flying.
Therefore, although celebrity culture is important in bringing awareness to issues that are plaguing modern society, making the issue stay relevant is a huge problem in the media among celebrities, because unlike activists, their whole life doesn’t revolve around these issues.
Thunberg has managed to make her whole lifestyle and mission centered around her, managing the balance between fame and activism, so whatever angle the media decides to take on her, it will reflect her values as an environmentalist.
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