Margaret Hair: Celebrity endorsements
October 10, 2008
Steamboat Springs — It is not often that I turn to the Lifetime Network Web site for journalistic research.
Until about five minutes before writing this, I didn’t know Lifetime had an active Internet presence – though it probably would have been a safe assumption. As it turns out, Lifetime has one of the more comprehensive lists of celebrity endorsements for presidential candidates. And for a reason I can’t quite explain, that’s exactly what I am looking for.
This is not because celebrity endorsements have any impact on any view I’ve ever held about anything; I’m as interested to hear what Matt Damon has to say about the vice presidential candidates as anyone else, but he’s not presenting any points of view that can’t be found in a newspaper.
I am looking up celebrity endorsements because I don’t understand them. Hollywood actors and MTV celebrities are, for the most part, eloquent people, and they can speak intelligently to why or why not they’re backing Obama or McCain or whomever else. Their names give notice to those words – but they shouldn’t give them weight.
To me, there are two kinds of political involvement for celebrities: expression and talking. Expression is legitimate; these are rappers who tackle the economy in their rhymes, documentary makers who address class issues in their films, visual artists who make statements in their brush strokes. Talking is the same no matter who it comes from – anyone is welcome to share their opinion on the state of the union, and all of those opinions should hold little to no weight on how each person views issues that affect his or her life in unique ways.
The Lifetime idea of presenting candidate information through their various celebrity champions does draw attention to the candidates from outside interests, and that’s probably the point. But, according to this list, Sean Penn is supporting Ralph Nader (or he was, as of August), which leads me to believe a compilation of celebrity endorsements is as much about the stars as it is the people they’re promoting.
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I also just noticed the next item on the celebrity endorsement drop-down menu is “We Vote for Celebrities,” a wish list of Hollywood presidential possibilities. It’s meant as a joke, but the suggested Hanks-Spielberg ticket would produce some killer campaign commercials.