At the Golden Globes last Sunday, host Ricky Gervais wasted no time taking aim at what he sees as the hypocrisy of Hollywood.
He joked about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s issues with diversity and inclusion, Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to Hollywood, and cracked a joke about Judi Dench in “Cats” that was so crude it had to be bleeped from the broadcast. He concluded by excoriating the practice of actors making politically-charged speeches when they come up to accept their awards and implored them to refrain from doing so, telling them to “come up, take your little award, thank your agent, and f*** off.”
Plenty of celebrities have used their platforms to convey controversial messages, to varying degrees of success. In 1973 Marlon Brando famously declined the Oscar for Best Actor, instead giving the stage over to Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather, who protested Hollywood’s portrayal of Natives on Brando’s behalf. Some stars, like Jane Fonda, have recently used their platforms to protest for climate action or policy change. But the immense privileges celebrities enjoy can make political speeches feel hollow. Some stars’ attempts at engagement could be construed as a form of self-promotion, restricted to hashtags meant to appeal to a fanbase or make headlines.
Should Hollywood celebrities use their platform to draw attention to social issues? If so, how? Do you think it is a self-serving gesture, or a meaningful form of engagement? Is there a net positive or negative to society? Today on FilmWeek, our critics discuss celebrities and political speech.