TweedleDee: Should Celebrities' Political Opinions Matter?

Max Wagner '19

This past election cycle featured a number of political PSAs, all featuring the same old, tired format, where one celebrity speaks for a while before saying a SUPER AWESOME MEGA IMPORTANT word, and the rest all echo that same word. Beyond that, we have been treated to celebrities from the overrated Meryl Streep, to Ashley Judd, to David Harbour lecturing the American public about their own political views and feelings. I can honestly say I really don’t care. Oh, a celebrity supports a candidate for something? Why should I care? Why should you? You shouldn’t. 

The first and most important reason to ignore the political yammering of celebrities: they have no expertise in the subject and have no idea what they are talking about. Most of the celebrities in these events are movie stars, or music performers; in other words, they are great at performing things other people have written. And they do it well. But let’s take a look at some of the celebrities who descended from their Olympus to interact with the plebs this election cycle. 

First was Robert Downey, Jr. He was the first and the primary celebrity in the video “IMPORTANT” on the YouTube Channel “Save The Day. Vote.” What qualifications does Robert Downey, Jr. have to lecture the rest of the country on his personal politics? Does he have a degree in or a history of study in political science? Has he been involved in governing or other political adventures for an extended period of time? No. He has done none of those things. He moved to Hollywood after high school to become an actor. He has no experience which indicates to me that his word should be taken any more seriously than any other person. When I want advice on the next step in my acting career, I will gladly take his advice in his field of expertise. 

Next let’s look at Martin Sheen, a notable name in a couple of the other videos. Martin Sheen is most well known for playing President Josiah Bartlett in Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. Notably, he is also the father of noted “winner” Charlie Sheen, and unnotably Emilio Estevez (and apparently a Ramón and Renée Estevez). Martin Sheen is popular on these types of videos because he pretended to be president in a TV show. That does not actually give you the skills to be president, or make you an expert in anything except (again) reading lines someone else wrote. Hilariously, Sheen seems to agree with this sentiment. In 2006, the Democratic Party of Ohio tried to get Sheen to run for the US Senate. He rebuffed them saying “I’m just not qualified. You’re mistaking celebrity for credibility.” This really sums up my entire argument but, confusingly, after saying this, he has continued to go out and speak as if people should listen. He acknowledged his own lack of standing as a serious voice to discuss these issues, and then immediately jumped back into it. Again, if he wants to speak about how to make it in Hollywood, I will listen, because THAT is his area of expertise. 

Next let’s turn away from Hollywood and politics, to the realms of sports and science. Athletes are the perfect example of incredible amazing skill, knowledge, and expertise in one field, and complete, glaring, almost terrifying lack of knowledge in other fields. For this example, let’s jump to Kyrie Irving. Some of you may know Irving as the dominating point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but most of you probably know him for his real expertise: Astronomy. Yes, that’s right. The genius that is Kyrie Irving is a flat-earther. For those of you who don’t know, a flat-earther is someone who thinks the earth is flat like a disk. Yes, I am obviously being sarcastic with everything above praising the idea of a flat-earth. Everyone knows it is a globe. We ignore this nonsense because he is a great athlete. And that is all he is asked to be. Mostly he is ignored because the shape of the earth is something on which an overwhelming majority of the population agrees. 

These three examples show the real problem with giving a platform to celebrities and their opinions. We gravitate toward and focus on those with which we disagree, while often dismissing dissenting celebrities as emptyheaded and clueless on the topic. Instead, we should treat celebrity opinions no differently than opinions of any other person: personal and likely flawed. People with no background on an issue should not get a larger platform just because they are a celebrity, whose skill is in no way related to said issue.


1 It was hilarious to see the caliber of celebrity continually drop, video after video.
2 I don’t say that… People say that. 
3 Actually, I really like Emilio Estevez – though I was recently warned by my sister that Mighty Ducks 2 does not hold up. Make of that what you will. 
5 Id.