By ADMIR DURAKOVIC
This year’s awards season is almost finished, and with it came a year of celebrity political acceptance speeches. It seems every time there is a major award show, there are politically-charged speeches to go with it.
Many actors and actresses take a liberal stance on politics, but are met with the criticism that they don’t represent the everyday person.
“A lot of celebrities did, do and shouldn’t [talk about politics],” actor Mark Wahlberg told “Task & Purpose,” a news and analysis outlet geared toward veterans. “A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble, and they’re pretty out of touch with the common person – the everyday guy out there providing for their family.”
American film critic Roger Ebert defines film as “a machine that generates empathy.” This is to say that watching a good movie connects the characters to its features, which is why a good movie is often a moral experience.
The people who work in Hollywood may be rich and famous, but to suggest that they’re simply “living in a bubble,” is undermining what they do for a living. Actors are masters at portraying that feeling of empathy. It’s
their art and profession. Actors are voters as well, and award shows are their greatest platform to deliver their messages.
Award shows have always been political. During the 1973 Oscars, actor Marlon Brando won the award for Best Actor for his role in “The Godfather.” Brando was not in attendance for the award show, and instead asked Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache and Native American activist, to take his place and represent him at the ceremony.
Littlefeather, in Brando’s place, went on to state that the actor “very regretfully” could not accept the award, as he was protesting Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in film.
Political speeches are not new to award shows, but they’re now getting more attention than ever.
Actress Meryl Streep made headlines with her powerful speech at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards. Streep used her platform, and six minutes of complete attention, to speak out against disrespect and violence, as well as calling for the protection of journalists.
During his campaign, Donald Trump imitated a disabled reporter who had written a story about him by ailing his arms and using a tone of voice that suggested mockery.
Streep said during her speech that the reporter was “someone he [Trump] out- ranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for others to do the same thing.”
Streep spoke for everyone with little power and without a platform to defend themselves during this controversial moment. Actors have the same right as everyone else to voice their opinions and concerns, and award ceremonies are the best time for them to do so.
An actor is no more important or relevant than any other person. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi made that very clear when his lm, “The Salesman,” won an Oscar in the category of Foreign Language Film.
Farhadi did not attend the Oscars, but instead had Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian- American engineer and CEO, read a statement that he had prepared.
“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Ansari said on behalf of Farhadi. “My absence is out of respect for the people in my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S. Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”
These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression. Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between ‘us’ and ‘others,’ an empathy which we need today more than ever.”
Actors have every right to voice political opinions at awards shows. They should – and will likely – continue to do so.