Social justice issues often shape our culture. From #MeToo to Black Lives Matters, celebrities are more commonly becoming the voice of social justice issues. But is it their job to be standing up for such causes? Most celebrities are either entertainers or athletes. Why should their opinion matter – especially when it comes to supporting demographics that they’re not even a part of?
The power of the celebrity voice
A good reason as to why celebrities should stand up for social justice issues is because they have such a powerful platform. As a society, we tend to invest more time in following entertainers and athletes than we do politicians and activists. We watch interviews and read articles and are inspired by not just their career achievements by their personal lives and views. For those people out there that don’t follow politics at all, using a celebrity to voice an opinion may be the only way to get through to them at all.
This is why it can be so important when celebrities decide to support causes – it has more impact than if a politician or career activist were to say it. When Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and his son Joey Armstrong chose to support Black Lives Matter on social media, they were reaching out to a new audience – some of whom might have otherwise ignored the Black Lives Matter movement. When Leonardo DiCaprio began campaigning against climate change, he was similarly reaching a new audience – one that might not have otherwise cared for climate change.
Choosing the right causes
What makes a cause ‘right’ is very much subjective. There are clearly causes that receive a lot more negative backlash and these are the causes that celebrities need to be careful of supporting if they want to avoid being ‘cancelled’.
Most would agree that far-right ideas and conspiracy theories are not good causes. Many celebrities are publicly lambasted for supporting such views, but occasionally they may end up converting a few of their fanbase into supporters of this cause. This can be dangerous as it gives celebrities the power to spread potentially toxic views. In recent years, social media sites have taken steps to censor some of these celebrities, but it doesn’t always stop them from finding a platform.
Reducing the cringe factor
Sometimes when celebrities stand up for social justice issues, it can come across as insincere and slightly ‘cringe-worthy’. The ‘I Take Responsibility’ video and cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ both received backlash in 2020 for not coming across as particularly sincere or useful. Neither video did much to support its cause – both were basically opportunities for celebrities to get together and gain some attention off the back of a viral video.
When getting involved in social justice issues, celebrities need to be sincere. Otherwise it can simply come across as virtue-signalling or clout-chasing.
Actions speak louder than words
Celebrities are able to come across as earnest by taking actions. When a celebrity takes time to join protests or donates money to a cause, it may not gain as much media attention as a viral video, but it does show more sincerity towards the cause and it is more likely to get people interested in that cause. We need to stop pressuring celebrities to say things, and start pressuring them to do things for causes instead.