Are Celebrities Obligated to Use Their Influence?

Alex Kavanagh considers whether celebrity activism is necessary, and whether some voices are stronger than others. [hr]Princess Diana, George Clooney, Bono, are all celebrities for one reason or another. They are also all recognised for using their fame to promote important campaigns, ideas, and charities. It’s a tale as old as time; the people in our society who are most recognised and respected will always have the loudest voices. Does that mean that everything celebrities promote is worthy of being listened to? Perhaps not, but certainly much of it is. Celebrities have expansive followings, sometimes undeserved influence, and can speak about a topic they could have little knowledge of and easily sway the general public due to their high status in society. While celebrities have an equal right to voice their opinions as any person, they should do so with caution.

“Whether celebrities are informed and passionate about their beliefs or not, do they have an obligation to advocate their beliefs?”

Recently Eminem burst into the political realm. The lauded rapper launched an incendiary freestyle video at the BET Awards in which he chastises USA President, Donald Trump and his supporters, belittling the president’s morals, personal appearance, and political views. Eminem goes on to address more serious issues but his words are in many ways undermined by the wild mocking earlier in the video. Many believe Eminem was trying to draw attention to important issues such as racism and the situation in Puerto Rico in his medium of choice. On the other hand, the rapper has expressed his views in a manner that could be easily disregarded by loyal republicans and Trump supporters as ineffectual ranting. Many would agree that it is a noble cause to encourage people to look past headlines and superficial news to develop their understandings of the more immediate and ongoing emergencies at home and abroad. However, whether celebrities are informed and passionate about their beliefs or not, do they have an obligation to advocate their beliefs?
“Some celebrities clearly earn their voices.”
Other celebrities use their fame for different reasons entirely. They do not take risks, rock the boat, or take educated stances on important topics. Take, for example, the Kardashian family who burst on to the scene and began to gain a following between 2006 and 2008. Since then, their influence has expanded exponentially, with the family featuring in TV shows, magazines, and numerous interviews. On Twitter, 56 million individuals follow Kim Kardashian-West alone. It is safe to say that the Kardashians are a household name. They have not exactly abused this influence, but neither have they done it justice in the way they could. They occasionally speak out on issues in a generalised way, and were famously supporters of Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign, but their main focus is clearly brand promotion and using their fame to publicise their various business ventures.

“These kinds of celebrities stick their necks out and risk losing the support of fans in order to promote their core beliefs.”

However, there are a growing number of celebrities who are renowned for their efforts to promote and raise awareness for admirable causes. Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson are two names that spring to mind. Jolie has been involved in humanitarian aid missions since 2001 and has set up several foundations including the Jolie-Pitt Foundation that aids those in extreme poverty. Angelina has used her fame as a method of gaining momentum and support for her movement. Similarly, Emma Watson has used her fame to engage in efforts to educate people on inequality in both the developing and developed world. She acted as an ambassador for the United Nations’ HeForShe campaign with the aim to involve more men in the feminist movement. The movement has experienced considerable success due to her influence and large following. These kinds of celebrities stick their necks out and risk losing the support of fans in order to promote their core beliefs. This is the kind of celebrity influence that should be encouraged. It sets a good example by unconditionally standing up for what they believe in.Unfortunately, not all celebrities are informed in what they speak about, and many do not have the same good intentions as others. Some use their fame and reach to benefit themselves rather than for worthwhile causes. This is not to say that they should not use their voices, and staying silent can often do more damage than if than speaking incorrectly, but some celebrities clearly earn their voices. These celebrities use their fame for purely moral reasons, and they may not be the majority, but their actions inspire those without fame to follow suit as best we can. That has to be worth far more than what we lose in the some who refuse to speak out or are not equipped to do so.