April 04, 2006


The People vs. Hollywood

...Last week the issue of celebrities and politics arose after Charlie Sheen offered his analysis of jetliner models and 9/11 conspiracies. Being that his area of expertise is reading scripts, a few of us wondered about Mr. Sheen’s knowledge of aviation and whether or not he was in a position to be an authority on the subject.
...Criticism for actors who offer their insight on current events and politics isn’t limited to just a few lowly bloggers, however, and this has producer Oliver Stone’s blood boiling. In an interview with Contact Music, Stone referred to media criticism of celebrities as “slander” and said that whenever actors speak about current events they’re told, “You’re an actor, a show-business director.” He called references to celebrities as “Hollywood whackos” an “easy and facile dismissal.”
...Aside from the humorous possibility that Stone is suggesting that calling someone an actor or director is slanderous—or is it?!—Mr. Stone seems to be validating one of the reasons that so many of us are critical of celebrity viewpoints in the first place: They assume that because they are the ones to say it that everyone must agree with them. If others don’t agree, those people are somehow preventing them from speaking or, in this case, engaging in slander.
...To be sure, many people give credence to everything and anything that celebrities say. Just a few days after the Charlie Sheen situation, a caller to C-Span’s Washington Journal used Sheen’s comments as some kind of “proof” that a conspiracy existed. The caller explained that since Charlie Sheen and other celebrities have expressed conspiracy theories, there must be something to it.
...Keeping this in mind, should we really be more skeptical of the people who worship the celebrities instead of the celebrities themselves? It’s a rather strange notion to suggest that because a person is a television or movie star that they’re experts in everything and have insight into things ranging from science to public policy. This “popularity-equals-enlightenment” idea doesn’t make any sense to those of us who lend credibility to extensive work in a given field. Questioning a celebrity’s credibility in a specific field—a field in which they might not have any expertise—seems to be far from slanderous, doesn’t it?
...The best way to put this situation into perspective would be to use the Charlie Sheen example—not to belabor the issue, but simply because it’s current. Those who view actors and actresses as superior in everything have routinely used the star’s celebrity status to justify the importance of that actor’s views. For example, the C-Span caller insisted that because Sheen was a star, he must know something that the rest of us don’t. On the other hand, when we look at people who view actors as nothing more than actors—not supreme gurus of everything—we find that they defend their views using information from people who are specialists of that particular field. Case in point: With respect to the 9/11 conspiracies, a magazine like Popular Mechanics, which specializes in science and more particularly physics, took each conspiracy and debunked it using data.
...Perhaps this is what Oliver Stone is failing to understand. Those of us who question the validity of things that celebrities say are not committing slander, and we’re certainly not preventing them from saying what they want to say. We’re asking how they came to their conclusions given their background as opposed to worshipping them for simply being famous.
Source: Contact Music


Blogger amy said...

Well put, JP. But don't you also think that celebrities (actors, directors, etc.) think that they're more entitled than the average person to be declaring one opinion or another? I mean, the fact that they have celebrity (to some degree) and have a somewhat larger soapbox (though I think blogs are changing that), might make them believe that they have a right to espouse all kinds of crap that normally wouldn't be tolerated by mainstream society (Tom Cruise and his behavior over the last year comes to mind here).

It's just a thought, but sometimes I think celebrities yack just because they know someone somewhere is going to hear them.

April 04, 2006  
Blogger Legally Insane said...

excellent points, j.p.

it reminds me of how busty baywatch star pamela anderson--a canadian herself--wrote a letter to the PRIME MINISTER of canada recently, asking him to prevent the culling (i.e. the clubbing to death) of baby seals.

as if she has more power of persuasian because of her enhanced breast implants and celebrity status so that her viewpoint would simply contravene the economic and biological factors of having to kill baby seals.

perhaps if she was an expert economist or biologist but not simply because she thinks baby seals are cute and cuddly.

April 05, 2006  
Blogger J.P. said...

Amy, I’d agree with that. When they know that millions of people are watching them, and that millions of people are paying to watch them, it gives them more of a holier-than-thou feeling.

Who is to blame there? The actors or the movie-goers and the people who subscribe to the celebrity magazines? Ultimately I’d have to say that the worshippers got the ball rolling; the celebrities then find it difficult to deal with those who don’t worship them; the rest of us find it annoying when the celebrities complain about those of us who don’t view them as something that they’re not.

DL, I love baby seals, but I’m still waiting for Pamela Anderson to do a public service announcement on the importance of using personal flotation devices.

April 08, 2006  
Blogger amy said...

Might this be a good place to interject how Pamela Anderson - a born and bred Canadian, and now a U.S. Citizen - penned a letter to the prime minister of Canada? I mean ... shouldn't that guy be pissed that they lost their greatest import??

April 10, 2006  
Blogger Dorid Lovely said...

When it comes right down to it though, we have to admit that these celebrities are also just people, and have opinions the same as we do. Now, if the shoe were on the other foot and we had a way to get OUR opinions heard on a wider scope, don't you think we'd do that?

Now as for Anderson writing a letter to the Prime Minister,I doubt very much that she was the ONLY PERSON to do that! Yet she's the one we hear about.

I have to say that the fault isn't in people of any "status" voicing their opinions, but in people who don't bother to discern fact from opinion.

April 11, 2006  
Blogger J.P. said...

I wouldn’t want to suggest that actors or any celebrity shouldn’t air their opinion. I encourage it. I’d also agree that each of us wants our opinion to be heard in as big an arena as possible—hence, we use blogs as opposed to something more limiting like word-of-mouth around our neighborhood.

My biggest concern is the idea—whether it comes from the celebrity themselves or their fans—that their fame somehow lends credibility to their argument.

For instance, if a university professor, writer, or reporter who specializes in political science or politics in general has something to say about politics, and for some reason becomes famous for it, he/she should have more credibility than a celebrity who might be famous for having starred in a popular movie and uses that fame to somehow justify their political viewpoints.

April 12, 2006  

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