As one of the most controversial and contentious US elections of all-time draws ever near, the world is turning their eyes to the American people to see who they will choose to be the next Leader of the Free World: Democratic Candidate, Hillary Clinton, or Republican Candidate Donald Trump.
Of the many people across the globe weighing in on this debate, celebrities have been some of the most vocal. They have also been one of the groups of people that Donald Trump has criticised most vocally. From his regular arguments on social media with the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and Samuel L. Jackson to his comments at the end of August where he said of his rival, Clinton: “The only people enthusiastic about her campaign are Hollywood celebrities, in many cases celebrities that aren’t very hot anymore.”
In spite of Trump’s comment, both his own campaign and Clinton’s respectively have a variety of celebrity supporters, though it might be argued that those who are anti-Trump are the more vocal of the lot. Recently, both Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro have appeared in videos declaring their very scathing condemnation of the Republican candidate with Hanks going as far as to say that should that “self-involved gas bag” win, it would be “a dark day for planet earth”. The question is: do celebrities influence the decisions of US voters and should they be allowed to have their say in such a broadly public forum?
It’s definitely not news that celebrity endorsements go a long way to selling a product, or, in this instance, a person. Having a famous face affiliated with a marketing campaign has long been a tactic to engage with the fame-hungry members of the public and appeal to their desire for exclusivity. As such it should come as no surprise that celebrities weighing in on politics influences public opinion, though whether this be for good or ill, nobody can say precisely.
One example of this in practice was English comedian, Russell Brand, who during the 2015 UK General Election famously interviewed Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, on his YouTube channel. This was a choice he ultimately came to regret as, in the wake of Miliband’s defeat and subsequent resignation, Brand credited himself for ruining the election. This seems to show that celebrities have a greater power to influence politics than people might initially think, though this could be to the detriment of the candidate they support as was the case with Brand…
The #SaveTheDayVote campaign was founded by writer and director, Joss Whedon, and is one that capitalises on the power and influence celebrities have. Featuring Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion and many others, the campaign mocks and confronts the influence of the celebrity endorsement trend by saying: “But you only get this many famous people together if the issue is one that truly matters to all of us: a disease or ecological crisis or a racist, abusive coward who could permanently damage the fabric of our society.”
The celebrities who are Anti-Trump, as I said before, seem to be more vocal of their political beliefs than their Anti-Hillary counterparts. Or, it might just be that it is the more well-known celebrities that are speaking up against Donald Trump. Of all those clashing with Trump, Misha Collins has been one of the most verbal, particularly on social media. On his YouTube channel he shared a video, ‘Misha goes to a Trump Rally’, where he openly expresses his horror at what he’d seen: “It is full of hatred and generalisations and intense oversimplification of really complex things.” In the wake of the most recent Presidential Debate, he also took to Twitter to congratulate Trump on his performance: “Efficient debate @realDonaldTrump! U offended hispanics “bad hombres,” women “she’s a nasty woman” & democracy by not accepting voters will.”
Collins is not the only one responding to Trump, ‘All of Me’ singer, John Legend, has also battled it out with members of the Trump campaign over Twitter saying of the Republican candidate, “Trump is truly an awful person.” Legend also notoriously clashed with Donald Trump Jr. over a protest that turned violent at a Trump Rally when Trump Jr. expressed disbelief at the protest. Legend responded by saying, “@DonaldJTrumpJr I think they were protesting your racist father. This isn’t complicated.”
There are a fair few Anti-Hillary celebrities, too, the most outspoken and well-known of which is likely Clint Eastwood who, in an abrasive interview, defended the antics of Trump, “He’s said a lot of dumb things.” He went on to add that Trump was “onto something, because secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells.” Whilst Eastwood’s views have been criticised for their lack of political correctness, many Republicans have responded positively to his open (if foul-mouthed) response to Trump.
Caitlyn Jenner is another Anti-Hillary celebrity and on her reality show, I Am Cait, she said of Trump that whilst she’s “not a big fan because, I think, of his macho attitude,” she does, contrary to many people who are firmly Anti-Trump, think “he would be very good for women’s issues.” When asked which candidate she would choose to vote for, she openly protested the notion of voting for Clinton, going on to add: “We’re done, if Hillary becomes President, the country is over.”
This political warmongering between the rich and famous is reaching a fever pitch as Election Day draws ever nearer. However, is this an appropriate way for them to act? Their words and actions hold a lot of sway with people all over the world as members of the public feel invested in the lives and views of their idols and seek to emulate them however they can. It may be more appropriate if they were only encouraging the registration of voters and not their individual beliefs political leanings. However, many people take to social media to share their opinions on politics, the only difference is: most people don’t have several million followers.
You can watch the Save The Day Vote campaign video below: