2020 has proven to be not only a whirlwind but also a year of much-needed change. Every month brought its own challenges that upheaved our current institutions — not only in the film industry, but in the world. Coronavirus has brought a laser focus on the American government’s capabilities, and as we approach election day that spotlight only continues to get brighter.
Misinformation abounds during this election season, and many celebrities and corporations have taken to the media to voice their views and to laud the importance of voting. While most politically vocal celebrities have received support and encouragement, some have been met with pushback. How involved should Hollywood be in politics? Is political engagement a right that should only be reserved for individuals and not for groups/companies? This election cycle has been very polarizing and it appears that the days of celebrities seeming apolitical are gone. Media and entertainment have become more than just forms of escapism – they have become voices for the voiceless and sources of factual information.
We are seeing an all-hands-on-deck approach to getting people out to vote and this includes figures in Hollywood who have historically stayed mum about politics. In this week’s blog, we explore some of these instances and discuss whether it is important for Hollywood to take a stance. Enjoy!
Freedom of Speech is one of the most important provisions in the US Constitution. The First Amendment provides the right to voice our opinions, whether on the internet to unknown strangers, or in conversation with our closest friends and family.
Before the 2016 election, it was rare to see public figures heavily involve themselves in political topics or events. In Hollywood, image is everything. For a celebrity to pick one side or the other could alienate part of their potential fan base and make them less “likeable” to mass audiences. Thus, Hollywood’s usual silence stance on personal political values. However, after the 2016election, our country was and remains deeply divided, and audiences and fans alike have asked for those whom they admire to speak up and out about what is happening in our world.
The Coronavirus has also made the world rethink how we view celebrities and their platforms, especially after the infamous “Imagine” singing video. Now more than ever, people feel it is important to utilize every available platform to inform those around us about social issues and causes. Specifically, with this election, we have seen many high-profile Hollywood celebrities like The Rock, Anne Hathaway, Zoe Kravitz, Tracee Elise Ross, and more constantly remind and inform people to vote and provide details regarding where to find credible information. Some celebrities have even gone as far to publicly back particular candidates.
Similar to the idea of a celebrity, organizations and corporations have traditionally been silent on sensitive topics, including political affiliations and events for similar reasons. Some people posit that businesses should not exclude or alienate half of their customer base. However, this election has historic implications and many businesses and organizations are taking strong stances like supporting candidates and/or choosing to endorse specific policies or promoting voting. Most major Hollywood entities like SAG-AFTRA are non-partisan and try to be as inclusive to their members as possible. Most entertainment unions are choosing to urge members to vote yes/no on certain propositions that affect them instead of advocating for candidates. For example, the WGA West PAC is urging its members to vote “yes” on California Proposition 22, which exempts app-based transportation and delivery services from complying with California’s AB-5 law. Many unions are also pushing their members to vote early to ensure their vote is counted. The WGA West is opening the doors to its Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills from October 30th through November 2nd to provide safe in-person voting in partnership with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Likewise, the Costume Designers Guild has already been circulating flyers encouraging members to vote, and SAG-AFTRA is organizing a “Get Out the Vote” panel on November 2nd. Earlier in the election, IATSE International started its first-ever text message campaign to urge members to vote, in addition to an email campaign. There is clearly a fine line between organizations advocating for political beliefs with their members and customers, and Hollywood unions are walking it well. They are performing a vital civic duty in relaying that regardless of one’s political affiliation, his or her vote should be counted.
There clearly is no exact right way to blend one’s status in Hollywood with encouraging political action, but 2020 has gifted us with several solid examples to follow. Film Connx supports inclusion and accessibility in film and TV production and is always a source for honest commentary on subjects that matter most to our community… including this presidential election. Like you, we are looking forward to knowing the outcome. See you next week!