More than ever before, today’s celebrities have the wherewithal to share their opinions with people around the world. The combination of more traditional platforms, such as song lyrics, and modern ones like social media has ushered in a new era of the ways in which celebrities communicate with average people. Whether this manifests itself in Taylor Swift’s endless breakup ballads or Jaden Smith’s musings about the reality of mirrors, we now have a historically unprecedented window into the lives of the most scrutinized people in our society. The myriad opportunities for expression are used by some luminaries in different ways than others; while some shy away entirely from sharing their beliefs, others use the spotlight to share their political views. With the innately divisive air that politics takes on, more and more people are seeing the political ideas of celebrities as something that cannot be ignored.
All of this has culminated in a disheartening trend in which people renounce their admiration when they don’t agree with the celebrity’s political views. The simple rejection of someone based only on their political opinions is never correct, no matter the scale. For instance, Tom Brady may be a Trump supporter while I am not, but that doesn’t compel me to hate him; my dislike for him is based on pettier, more football-based reasons.
To use a popular example of a celebrity who has expressed their political ideology profusely, consider Bill Nye. Back in the day, Nye won over the minds of many a child with his show Bill Nye the Science Guy, in which he discussed scientific concepts through entertaining skits. However, when Nye released a series on Netflix entitled Bill Nye Saves the World which partially focused on Nye’s own liberal political leanings, his public perception instantaneously tanked. The internet was quickly flooded with videos dismissing Nye as a “lying SJW cuck” who attempts to “brainwash the youth with the liberal agenda.” All of a sudden, a large subset of people stopped idolizing the man and instead vowed to never again watch his content or show it to their children (even including Bill Nye the Science Guy). What I have never understood about this concept is the readiness of people to change their views of a celebrity as soon as they realize that a celebrity might have an opinion contrasting with their own.
In a way, this kind of ruthless renunciation of positive opinions about celebrities can be seen as a representation of the complications of discussion about politics on a more personal scale. The kind of person on Twitter who verbally lacerates Dennis Rodman for a pro-Trump tweet is likely the same kind of person to surround himself with an echo chamber of anti-conservatives in his own personal life. When we block ourselves off from other ideas in this manner, we end up worsening our biases and polarizing ourselves further. It’s a vicious cycle, and when one stops paying attention to the work of certain celebrities because of their political views, they are only further confining themselves to those biases.
At the end of the day, cutting off discussion and denouncing the freedom to express ideas only worsens the American political situation, whether the person who opines is an illustrious superstar or just an average person. Yes, you have the same freedom to disagree with a celebrity on their political views just as that celebrity does to express those views in the first place. However, it is important to remember that celebrities are people too; their political opinions are only one small aspect of their lives, and choosing to reverse one’s opinion of celebrities and their work based on a small aspect is disrespectful not just to that person but to one’s own worldview. For that reason, we need to not only let celebrities express their political views, but seriously consider those views and understand where they come from. As Bill Nye once said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”