Rhetoric and Writing in the Public Sphere: An Introduction/Malcolm Gladwell and the Public Sphere

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Celebrity Activism in Politics and the Public Sphere[edit]

A century ago, in a train to Boston, silent film star Francis X. Bushman, affectionately known as “the handsomest man in the world”, was asked to meet with President William Howard Taft. Amid a landslide presidential election loss, a downtrodden Taft told Bushman he “envied” him. Taft, who hardly drew any attention next to the film star, told him “All the people love you, and I can’t have even the love of half the people.”

History[edit]

The prevalence of celebrities within the political sphere isn’t a recent phenomenon.[1] The 20th Century brought countless politically active actors and actresses such as Orson Welles, Harry Belafonte, and Robert Redford. One of the most memorable celebrity activists of the 20th century, John Lennon, was a symbol of unity among the Vietnam War protestors and a truly rebellious political activist.

Today, celebrity activism in politics is more prevalent than it may have ever been. However, the nature of activism has completely changed from the Vietnam generation to this one. By comparing Lennon’s activism to Bono’s activism, the way in which celebrity activism has changed from generation to generation will become clearer. Also, by showing some negative effects that celebrity activism can cause, such as P. Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign, it will be made clear that not all political activism has positive effects.

Selfish Activism[edit]

When news breaks that a celebrity, rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, is starting a widespread campaign to encourage more young people to take part in the voting process, it seems extremely positive and completely harmless. But when you look closer at P. Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign that was launched in 2004, something isn’t right. Combs isn’t just trying to increase voting participation, he’s trying to increase Democrat voter participation. The rapper has no reservations about letting his Democratic Party affiliations show to the 18-24 year olds he markets to. Not that Combs is trying to trick people into voting for his preferred candidate, but he is trying to persuade. The lack of bipartisanism and his target market are nonetheless unsettling. When he’s shouting “Vote or Die” at one of his rallies, it’s clear who he has in mind as the candidate. Though Comb’s campaign proved relatively unsuccessful as far as the polls were concerned in 2004, as the “presidential election saw 46.7% of eligible individuals aged 18-24 turn out to vote, a rate 9% lower than those aged 25-34 and fully 25% lower than those over the age of 55”. Regardless, a celebrity using their clout in a manner such as this is not the right way to get involved. Having political influence is completely acceptable, but not when you’re promoting your political party at what should be a bipartisan event encouraging young adults to vote. As has been seen throughout the last 100 years or so, celebrities are always going to be able to make their way into the public sphere of politics. Celebrities have the ability to step up on a soap box and express their opinions while countless people listen, even if people don’t want to hear it. The spotlight that accompanies fame gives celebrities a consistent medium through which they can always speak, even if they don’t know what they are talking about. Obviously, P Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign isn’t the worst thing in the world. But rather than using his celebrity in political activism for something positive, he stuck to his own agenda when he had an opportunity to increase youth voting without attempting to affect any political opinions people hold.

John Lennon’s Activism[edit]

Lennon helped strengthen and mobilize the protest against an unpopular war in Vietnam with his ability to unify people through his music and otherwise. His rebellious yet peaceful attitude that had so many people responding made politicians sweat. The politician whom he unnerved the most was none other than President Richard Nixon. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act it was revealed that Lennon was being monitored and harassed by the FBI for his leadership in the anti-war movement.[2] Along with wife Yoko Ono, a Japanese avant-garde artist, John and Yoko decided to dedicate their talents to try to obtain world peace. With Yoko, John staged a “bed-in for peace” at hotels in Europe for a week. They performed these “bed-in for peace” events several times after the initial week in Europe.

Bono’s Activism[edit]

Bono @ Spiderman- Turn Off the Dark Opening.jpg

Bono, along with being the lead singer of U2 is a world renowned philanthropist. Among his countless high honors, National Journal named him the most politically effective celebrity of all time, he was named the Time Magazine person of the year along with Bill and Melinda Gates, and has done more to fight the AIDS virus and more to fight hunger than likely anyone human being has. He was also a part of Band-Aid, which benefitted staring Ethiopian children.[3] Bono’s most recognized act of humanitarianism is Product Red.[4]

Lennon vs. Bono[edit]

Compared to Lennon, Bono has clearly done more as far for humanism and social issues and is a great example how to use celebrity clout in the best way. But for some reason, Lennon still seems to be the better activist. He may not have worked in Africa to help in Darfur, but Lennon had one quality that made him the better. He was rebellious. He helped protests grow exponentially as well as unifying the protestors with songs such as “Imagine”. John Lennon showed that people who aren’t politicians can be just as, if not more impactful on politics than politicians themselves. The FBI kept tabs on him and prepared to take counter measures against him and his “anti-war propaganda”. As great as a humanitarian Bono is, he is by no means a rebel. He’s shaking hands and smiling with politicians, which despite all the good it does, takes away from any rebel image he may have ever had. Bono never points fingers at specific people who are to blame, and avoids causing conflict. That is what separates Lennon from Bono as a political activist: the passion and boldness that he had that mobilized and motivated the people around him. That being said, Bono is unsurpassable as far as humanitarianism goes. This generation of political activism may have shifted away from the rebellious nature of activism in the 1960s, but as Bono has made it known, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Kanye West[edit]

Hurricane Katrina devastated much of Louisiana in 2005. Rescue missions and clean up committees were quickly organized preceding the hurricane. Kanye West, however, did not believe that help was available fast enough. Kanye blamed the problem directly on President George W. Bush. During a live televised concert for hurricane relief, Kanye stated, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” He continued on to say that America is “set up to help the poor, the black people, and the less well-off as slow as possible.” His words, which were not written on the program’s scripted teleprompter, stunned many. Despite the network’s attempts to cut his comments from air, Kanye’s digs at the president were heard nationwide. Kanye’s fans across the country were left to decide if they agreed with his statements or not. Were Kanye’s claims warranted? It took the National Guard five days to reach the hurricane site, but was it because George Bush is racist?

Kanye received loads of backup from supporters, fellow celebrities, and the African American race. Celebrities like Rev. Al Sharpton and Jay-Z took to Kanye’s defense. Jay-Z backed Kanye up 100 percent stating, “This is America. You should be able to say what you want to say. We have freedom of speech.” Rev. Al Sharpton agreed, adding that President Bush should defend himself if he wants to. Kanye provided the public sphere with a new topic for discussion and consideration. He brought awareness to a possibly detrimental characteristic of the president of our country. Kanye defended his comments, explaining that it was his duty to speak his opinions, and that he could not simply sit back and remain quiet.

Kanye’s impromptu insults on the president into the public sphere created a whirlwind. Whether Kanye’s statements about Bush are true or not, they got the public talking. People began to re-evaluate their president and were encouraged to voice their opinions in the future regarding running of our country.

Lady Gaga[edit]

In 2011, many stories circled the news regarding cyber bullying and teenage suicides. Most of these issues stemmed from differences in sexual orientations. Lady Gaga, the pop singer famous for her out-of-the-box originality and lavish attire, sought to make a change. Gaga’s attempts began with her hit song entitled “Born This Way.” The song encouraged people to be proud of who they are. The song became a quick success because of its motivational theme and relatable lyrics. The song states, “Whether life’s disabilities let you outcast, bullied or teased/ rejoice and love yourself today cause baby you were born this way/ no matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life/ I’m on the right track, baby/ I was born to survive.

The song brought comfort to many people with sexual orientations that may be viewed as out of the norm. Gaga hoped to help empower the youth even further by creating the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF). The BTWF’s mission statement states, “The BTWF was founded to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world.”

Gaga took her foundation one step further by including the Obama administration on bully prevention in middle and high schools across America. Senior adviser in the White house, Valerie Jarret, said Lady Gaga is a “source of strength for many young people who feel isolated and scared at their schools.”

Lady Gaga was able to successfully utilize the public sphere to bring awareness to the issue of cyber bullying and discrimination due to sexual orientation. She defined a problem while devising a solution, all the while teaching the important lesson of being the person you were born to be.

Sean Penn[edit]

Actor Sean Penn has never been shy in the world of political and social issues. As a Democrat, Penn has publically displayed his views on gay rights and pulling the troops out of the Middle East. Penn proved to be an influential celebrity figure yet again as he received a Novel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work in Haiti this past year.

Following the devastating earthquake destroyed Haiti in January 2010, Oscar-winner Sean Penn has played a major role in rebuilding the country, spending nearly half his time there. Penn began as the head of a band of volunteers and quickly became the mayor of a homeless camp of 1.5 million people. Penn is now the ambassador for President Michel Martelly and the CEO of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

As a popular celebrity, Penn is able to promote the continuance of help in reviving Haiti. His passion for the country brings at aspect of “coolness” to the public, making them want to help as well.

“My job is to help people get the future they want to have,” Penn said.

References[edit]

  1. For instance, great 19th century writers Charles Dickens and David Thoreau were both outspoken abolitionists, while writer Mark Twain denounced the United States’ imperialism and war practices in the late 1890’s
  2. In fact Nixon attempted for four years to have Lennon deported, unsuccessfully to his dismay
  3. In addition, he founded ONE in 2004, which is now 2 million strong and affecting social changes in over ten areas of need including HIV/AIDS, education, debt cancellation, maternal and child health and water and sanitation
  4. “The revolutionary initiative has successfully harnessed the power of branding and consumerism for affecting social change.”

"Bono's Top 10 Humanitarian Moments - Bono Turned 50 Yesterday. We Can't Wait to See What He Does in the next 50!" MindBodyGreen.com. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-793/Bonos-Top-10-Humanitarian-Moments.html>. "Celebrities as Political Activists - Why Stars Make Lasting Marks as Advocates - AARP." AARP - Health, Travel Deals, Baby Boomers, Election News, Over 50, Online Games, Retirement Plan. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-06-2011/NJ-Top-20-Intro.html>. Easterly, William. "John Lennon vs. Bono: The Death of the Celebrity Activist." Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis. The Washington Post. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120904262_2.html>. "The Failure of "Vote or Die" - Perspectives." The Signal - Georgia State University in Atlanta. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.gsusignal.com/2.14076/the-failure-of-vote-or-die-1.1950466>. "Hollywood's Most Influential Celebrity Activists - Forbes.com." Information for the World's Business Leaders - Forbes.com. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://www.forbes.com/2006/11/22/celebrity-activist-hollywood-pf-philo-cz_sc_1122celeb.html>. "John Lennon." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_lennon>. "John Lennon vs. Bono: The Death of the Celebrity Activist." Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120904262_2.html>. Ryan, Timothy J. "You Can Bring a Horse to Water...Youth Voting and the Personal Touch." Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://ase.tufts.edu/polsci/resources/ryanThesis.pdf>.

Tiger Woods and the Public Sphere[edit]

Tiger Woods

Introduction[edit]

Before delving into the complex web that surrounds the public tycoon Tiger Woods, it is important to note his undeniably extraordinary accomplishments in the sport of golf for which he has received such a status. Tiger Woods turned professional in 1996 and shortly after won his first majors at the 1997 Masters at the age of 21. In June 1997, he became the number one ranking golfer in the world. Among this many broken records, Woods was named PGA Player of the Year a record of ten times and won fourteen major golf championships. His earnings in 2010 through winnings and endorsements made Woods the highest-paid athlete in the world. Tiger Woods thrived in his personal life as well. In October 2004, he married former Swedish model Elin Nordegren. The couple had two children, adding to the public’s obsession with Woods’s perfect family. It’s no shock that he quickly became a prominent public figure and global fixation. Subsequent sections will cover the intertwined relationship between Tiger Woods and the public sphere.

"America's Son"[edit]

Receiving this nickname in an introduction given by Oprah Winfrey when Woods was a guest on her talk show reveals much about the overall public sentiment towards the athlete at the time. Although Woods is less than half African American and there are a few other black men in the sport, he represents the race as THE black man in golf. Woods quickly became a multicultural role model in a sport previously dominated by white men (he is of African American, Thai, and Indian descent). This hero status quickly expanded beyond just the realm of sports. The golf prodigy became the center of media attention, “…transferring the material of sports page headlines to the front page of newspapers in a way usually reserved for World Series Championships or athletes involved in sex and drug scandals” (Yu, 2002). He was no longer just a sports figure, but a famous public figure. There was an almost immediate desire to view Woods as the ultimate embodiment of the ethnic diversity within American society.

With the developments in mediums such as television and the internet, “sports and entertainment celebrity…has become the popular definition of moral character” (Yu, 2002). This spotlight that has been placed on athletes often reveals less-than-heroic behavior including crime, sexual exploits, and other immoral conduct. Under public and media scrutiny, Woods was one of the few famous athletes with a seemingly pristine image. People used Tiger Woods as proof that a young athlete could be extremely successful and remain a grounded family man: “The overall image was of clean-cut professionalism, moderation, and decency” (Carroll, 2010). Woods possesses ingredients of the traditional hero: being exceptional at his skill, remaining calm under competitive pressure that would make the average Joe crack, and being gracious and worthy when victorious (Carroll, 2010). The world put Woods on a pedestal, and it seemed as though he could do no wrong. However, the golfer’s perfectly crafted image did not last forever. This sports giant fell hard in one of the most shocking scandals of the decade followed by media whirlwind.

Tiger Feeding Frenzy[edit]

The end of 2009 brought a series of allegations against Tiger Woods that would shatter his family-man persona. Reports surfaced of Woods’s infidelity with a long list of mistresses. He was known for keeping his personal life extremely private; nevertheless, the public was blindsided by the stark contrast between reality and illusion. Not only had Woods been unfaithful to the mother of his children, he was a repeat offender. These developments put the golfer in the same category as many other athletes and proved that he was no longer the exception to the rule. The media went wild with tales of the modern hero and his tragic flaw. The magnitude of his celebrity before the scandal contributed a great to deal to the extensive coverage. As frequently occurs when the famous misbehave, citizens were infatuated with the Woods’s trainwreck. The audience gains incredible, “almost erotic” enjoyment at the fall (Carroll, 2010). While gossip involving a cheating star usually remains within tabloid magazines and sites like Radar Online and TMZ that specialize in sensational stories, mainstream “respectable” media began flooding their stations with news of Woods’s affairs. ABC, Fox, NBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times were just a few that bombarded their audiences with the latest developments in the life of Tiger Woods. While Woods was no stranger to major headlines, the subject matter had changed significantly. Praise for Woods’ complete domination of his sport and contributions to society were no longer present. The widespread, relentless media coverage and public obsession is compared to the scandals of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson (Farhi, 2010). It can be argued that the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allowed for further discussion and unyielding gossip. The impact of Woods’s debacle penetrated various aspects of the Tiger Woods brand. Before the negative exposure, Woods was held in the highest regard professionally and personally; he came off as a gentleman in a gentleman’s game. “That aura is gone now, along with millions of dollars in endorsement income, millions more that it reportedly cost him to keep even more intimate details of his hookups from being disclosed, and a pristine public image that it had taken a lifetime to craft” (Robinson, 2010). No doubt a result of his tarnished persona, Woods lost sponsors such as Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, and General Motors. Nike was one of the few major corporations that continued to back the sports icon.

The public conversation quickly expanded to include speculation about what this immense scrutiny would do to his professional golf career. In February 2010, at his first public appearance since news of the infidelity broke, Woods announced an indefinite hiatus from golf to sort out his family matters, including his marriage with Nordegren. Just as some condemned Woods for the disastrous unraveling of his family-man image, others argued that his sexual exploits couldn’t take away what he has undeniably achieved as an athlete and focused on the possibility for redemption. Before Tiger Woods’s first tournament since the scandal at the Masters in April 2010, the press and public expressed the overall outlook that he was “simultaneously an underdog and one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known” (Marche, 2011). With a likeness to the heroes of classical literature, Woods’ new image was that of a supernatural specimen, made mortal by sin, who finds his way again. Although Tiger Woods is a brilliant athlete who is unmatched by any other golfer in so many ways, it is important to consider what he represents within the public sphere.

Public Sphere[edit]

The implications of Tiger Woods’s impact go far beyond how he changed the game of golf or sports on the whole. He serves as an illustration of what the public sphere has become over the decades. The Woods phenomenon is a product of our preoccupation with entertainment, something consistently identified as a detriment to the public sphere. Athletes, actors, and socialites are given increased status, including enormous salaries, due to the value the public places on amusement. “Celebrity populates the public stage with a range of larger-than-life actors who play out the human drama…” (Billings, 2010). The Huxleyan view that culture becomes a burlesque is illustrated by the spectacle that surrounded the rise and fall of Tiger Woods. The American news media are commercial ventures that rely on viewers to be maintained. In order to accomplish this task, media must give the viewers what they desire: infotainment. Celebrities become the focus of media attention, performing for millions of captivated spectators (Carroll, 2010). Stars like Tiger Woods are being reported on along with the rest of the evening news that discusses war, famine and politics. As a result of their constant presence in the media, particularly television, these figures become the subject of discussion in the public sphere, distracting citizens from beneficial conversation and the vicious cycle continues.

Tiger in Action

The audience adored Tiger Woods as a sports titan and symbol of the ideal athlete, both on and off the green. Then viewers unapologetically consumed any developments in the scandal that followed. It is likely that during the climax of the scandal, Woods’s infidelity was being discussed on every major media outlet in the country and a significant number around the world. By allowing entertainment such as this to dominate the media, the public lacks opportunity to gain the knowledge necessary to become informed citizens and are unable to be active participants in the marketplace of ideas.

Not only does the case of Tiger Woods present another reason to question the responsibility of our news media to provide more than just entertainment, it exemplifies the problem with putting such figures in categories of “hero” or “role model.” The youth of this generation not only admire the famous, they aspire to emulate them. Culture no longer emphasizes the value in being considered a war hero (Yu, 2002). Instead, icons include these celebrities. If the public sphere continues to be dominated by the desire to be entertained, these role models will remain the same; they provide what is prized most. While sports will always be a prized pastime, it must be compartmentalized in a way that it is just a portion of the public's and media’s focus so as to not interfere with the necessary flow of information. Tiger Woods allows us dissect the multifaceted aspects of public image and the importance of media in shaping our perceptions of that figure.

References[edit]

Billings, A. (2003). Portraying Tiger Woods: Characterizations of a "black" athlete in a "white" sport. Howard Journal of Communication, 29-37. Carroll, J. (2010). The tragicomedy of celebrity. Springer Science and Business Media, 489-492. Farhi, P. (2010). Lost in the woods. American Journalism Review, 14-19. Marche, S. (2011, April). Tiger Woods will be redeemed . Esquire. Robinson, E. (2010, March). The deconstruction of Tiger Woods. Ebony, pp. 64–66. Yu, H. (2002). Tiger Woods at the center of history: looking back at the twentieth century through the lense of race, sports, and mass consumption. Sports Matters: Race, Recreation, and Culture.



The Use of Celebrities in Presidential Elections[edit]

Sarah Jessica Parker

In the world today, it is fairly easy to argue that celebrities are more a part of our lives than ever before. We are fascinated by everything about the ones we love as well as the ones we love to hate. Combing through the tabloids is the guilty pleasure of millions of people across the globe because either we want to be them or we are grateful that our own lives are exponentially less dramatic. If you walk into any convenience or grocery store, you’ll find a gossip magazine with nameless celeb on the front analyzing her clothing choices to determine if she is pregnant as the rumors they themselves created suggest. God forbid she step out without a ring because that means she’s getting a divorce. Then when you go home and turn on the news, you’ll find another story about nameless celeb’s boyfriend getting into a fight in a bar, or being arrested for drugs or hitting the paparazzi. For all of the faults we find in them, we keep them on the highest of pedestals. Celebrities tend to have a lot of excess money, and often choose to spend it on charities for various reasons. They become the epitome of success to young people, and are therefore cast as role models whether they want to be or not. As role models, young people and older generations alike are likely to be swayed by their opinions. This is obviously an extremely powerful position to be in; millions of people looking at a single actor, musician, or athlete for their endorsement seems absurd, but it isn’t as crazy as it seems. The combination of all of these factors shows just how addicted our culture is to the idea of celebrity. They become a small part of our family because they are constantly in our homes through television, computers, iPods, radio, and hundreds of other technologies that have risen in the last decade or so. The only question is, how will that power be harnessed?

Using Star Power to Win Elections[edit]

If all of this is true then it is no wonder politicians, especially Presidential candidates, like to use that power to win elections. They do this in the form of endorsements, fundraisers, concerts, etc., and it is a no-holds-barred race to get the most elite celebrities on their side. It isn’t a race to simply get the most celebrities though; it is about getting the celebrities that hold the most potential influence over the largest or most contested demographic. In this past election, Presidential incumbent Barack Obama seemed to have done just that, and it showed in the outcome of the race. However, it isn’t all completely partisan; the “Rock the Vote” campaign asks every eligible citizen, especially young people, to exercise their rights by registering to vote and going to the polls on Election Day. In the most recent Presidential election, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney both had their fair share of celebrities to speak on their behalf.

Sarah Jessica Parker[edit]

Sarah Jessica Parker organized a fundraiser for President Obama in June, 2012 to be held in her own Manhattan apartment. Her goal was to have fifty guests who would pay $40,000 a plate. Whereas celebrities are usually given free admission to everything, or even bribed to attend with the promise of gifts, Parker gave no exceptions to the price. This meant that fifty very wealthy Democrats we able to dine with the President and Parker simply because they supported him and wanted the opportunity to meet him [1] Not only did this dinner bring in a lot of money for Obama’s campaign, but it influenced voters and got them talking. Any type of event like this garners a lot of media attention and therefore accomplishes all three benefits listed above. Potential voters who didn’t know who they would vote for that were fans of Parker would be more likely to vote for Obama because she supports him. By the same token, such a public event would cause people to talk more about Obama and this would create discussion about his politics as well.

George Clooney[edit]

George Clooney held a similar fundraising dinner, but with an added twist. He also charged $40,000 per plate for the dinner he held at his Studio City home, but he entertained 150 guests and not all of them paid the full price to get in. In fact, they paid around $23. Clooney held a contest to raise money for the President, open to the public where they made a donation in order to try and win a ticket to the dinner. The contest ended up raising two-thirds of the grand total from that night. The two winners and their guest were given seats at this dinner, where they dined with not only the President and George Clooney, but Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire, J.J. Abrams and other A-list stars. This single event raised millions of dollars by tens of thousands of people both A-list and everyday citizen, and gave Obama a forum to talk about his policies for those in attendance to hear and then subsequently spread to their friends and family.[2]

Romney Supporters[edit]

While there weren’t many high profile in-home dinner/fundraisers in support of Romney, he didn’t lack in celebrity support. Some of his endorsements came from Clint Eastwood, Meat Loaf, Chuck Norris, Donald Trump, Stacey Dash, Scott Baio, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jeff Foxworthy, Trace Adkins, and Kid Rock.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is a long time Republican and was at one point rumored to be considering running for president. When that didn’t happen, he threw his weight behind Romney. His entire family worked hard to help support Romney as well. His wife Melania threw a fundraiser in New York City in honor of Ann Romney’s birthday, which raised in excess of $600,000. His daughter Ivanka, who in the previous election was hopeful for Obama’s success, also endorsed Mitt Romney in an interview with Fox News. Among the many endorsements of Romney there were a few that really caused a stir because they surprised people. Stacey Dash, who is known for her role alongside Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless,” publically supported Romney and received backlash for it. Dash announced on her Twitter account that she would be voting for Romney, and received responses varying from asking her how much she got paid to endorse him to saying that she must not have read the “black bible,” implying that if she had she would obviously vote for Obama. [3]

Comparing the Outcome of the Election to Celebrity Endorsements[edit]

Romney’s supporters, though no less famous than Obama supporters, have pretty narrow fan bases that generally include only one or two demographics and do not control that demographic. The majority have been extremely popular in one genre of one industry, and appeal to the same people as Romney’s other supporters. Given these few examples, it is clear that Obama was able to grasp the more influential celebrity endorsements. As represented in the polls and in the fan bases of those who endorsed him, he had the overall young vote which has become increasingly important as they are becoming a larger part of the electorate. Both Clooney and Parker have a very wide fan base ranging from a teen to her grandparents. With successes like Sex and the City, E.R., the Ocean’s series, and Hocus Pocus both stars have garnered a very wide variety of fans, making them two very powerful stars in the political realm as well.

Neutral Celebrity Politics[edit]

Miranda Cosgrove

The other side of celebrity endorsement that has been increasingly employed in politics is the more neutral position. This is to say that campaigns such as “Rock the Vote” recruit celebrities to encourage young voter turnout. The organization describes itself as “a trusted source of information for young people about registering to vote and casting a ballot.”[4] The description on its website also claims to use music, popular culture, and new technologies to engage young people and build political power for them as the millennial generation made up one-fourth of the electorate in this Presidential election (RtV). Throughout election season, commercials and ads could be seen on television, on YouTube, in magazines, and in many other places.

Darren Criss

Endorsements included Darren Criss, Jane Lynch, Miranda Cosgrove, Josh Duhamel, Amy Poehler, and many other popular artists in young pop culture. [5] Organizations such as “Rock the Vote” do not endorse any candidate. They encourage young people, beginning in high school, to become involved in the political system and politicians to listen to their young constituents as well as their older ones.[6]. Afterall, the young people will eventually be the ones ruling the world. If there is no interest at a young age, there is less interest as young people grow older which leads to all-around apathy, and that is not good for society.


  1. [1]Sarah Jessica Parker's Obama fundraiser: Did stars really pay $40,000 to dine with the presidents?
  2. [2] George Clooney's Obama fundraiser uses star power with a twist.
  3. [3] Celebrities who support Mitt Romney.
  4. [4] About Rock the Vote.
  5. [5] We Will.
  6. [6] About Rock the Vote.