The Easterner

Pointed Political Comments Should Not Have a Place in Award Shows

Gerald Maib for The Easterner

Gerald Maib for The Easterner

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It is commonplace for artwork, theatre productions, documentaries and movies to address and promote political ideologies to the world. They help spread messages about social topics and bring awareness to occurrences that the world would otherwise turn a blind eye toward. But what about award shows and sports press conferences? Are these also places in entertainment where political ideologies, beliefs and discussions should take place?

Over the past year, the concept of using award shows, Superbowl halftime shows and after-game press conferences as forums to discuss political and social discourse has become increasingly popular. Some celebrities, such as 49ers’ starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick and pop star Beyonce have used their NFL and cable tv appearances to promote movements that rally against police brutality and racism toward African-American’s in the United States. Leonardo Dicaprio used his 2016 history-making Oscar speech to address climate change, and more recently, legendary actress Meryl Streep used her 2017 Golden Globes speech to take aim at President Trump.

These displays of political opinion can detract from the true meaning and purpose of the event at which the celebrity takes their stand.

While it’s true that celebrities could use just their fame and recognition to hype a protest with an appearance or arrange a topic-specific press conference to promote an idea, the media coverage of said protests or press conferences is never as big as it is for already established events, such as the Super Bowl Halftime Show and award show speeches.

These ad hoc political announcements at highly covered events create more buzz about the topic and the celebrity who took a stand on that topic than if it was just an event organised for a specific cause. Emma Watson’s role as a UN Goodwill Ambassador is a perfect example of a celebrity being a part of an organization or a cause who speaks about political and social ideas but lacks appropriate media coverage. A majority of the coverage or articles that appear when you Google Emma Watson Goodwill Ambassador is press coverage of her just being a Goodwill Ambassador.

However, the buzz created by a celebrity showing up unannounced to a protest or speaking at an organized event, such as Shailene Woodley and her consistent support for the Standing Rock cause, could instead depend entirely on the celebrities level of notoriety. Woodley was arrested during a raid on a camp last October, and a Facebook live stream, which recorded the ordeal, went viral and added to the media attention Standing Rock received–but not in a positive manner.

According to a Time Magazine article penned by Woodley, Woodley acknowledges that her celebrity overshadowed the cause she was fighting for.

“I appreciate all of you out there who supported me while I was arrested,” said Shailene, who then went on to make a point of the hashtag, FreeShailene, and how it instead should have been #ProtectCleanWater or other hashtags that were more relevant to the Standing Rock Movement. Actor Mark Ruffalo, known for his role of Bruce Banner and the Hulk in Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise, was also active throughout the Standing Rock movement but received little media attention for his work and appearances at the camps.

While there are no specific guidelines for an Oscar’s speech or a Super Bowl Halftime Show, EWU’s athletic department does offer advice and counseling on how to maintain a professional appearance during a post-game or pre-game press conferences.

Sports Information Director Dave Cook said EWU Athletics encourages student-athletes to “keep their comments related to their association with their respective sports team and university when interviewed as a student-athlete.”

Formal training is also not provided to student-athletes, but there are guidelines defined in the EWU student-athlete handbook.

It seems the consensus is that celebrities and public figures are best left to sticking to their day jobs, but if celebrities don’t take a stand on issues they believe in and provide insight to larger audiences, they are doing the larger world a disservice.

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Pointed Political Comments Should Not Have a Place in Award Shows