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Looking To Celebrities And Superstars For Guidance

Sarah Erickson |
August 3, 2010 | 1:49 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)
“I think a homosexual marriage should be something between a man and a woman.”

  -Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Celebrities: They may not always say it right, but when they open their mouths, we listen. 

Few things get Americans a-twitter more than juicy celebrity gossip. Whether watching it on E!, reading it on TMZ or finding it in newsstands, following the lives of public personas is one of our nation’s most popular past-times. Superstars constitute America’s version of royalty.

That said, with the attention they draw, while frequently inviting ridicule (insert nod to LiLo and Mel Gibson) the best also command respect and even reverence. Especially when they take a stand on an issue of political importance.

Lady Gaga, listed as number 4 on Forbes list of top 100 most powerful celebrities, frequently uses her stardom as a platform for voicing her opinion and concern about current social and political issues.

At a show last weekend in Phoenix, Gaga expressed her opposition to the newly-enacted Arizona immigration law SB1070, which requires aliens to carry registration documents on them at all times or be punished with a misdemeanor offence. The controversial bill has garnered national and international attention for its severity and the racial profiling that critics say it encourages. Several popular musicians have boycotted performing in the state of Arizona in response to the bill.

“We have to actively protest,” Gaga told her audience of 14,000 fans. “I will not cancel my show. I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will protest this state.”  

But does Gaga’s outspoken nature make a difference in public discourse? Is it her place to vocally take a stance on hot-button topics?

The answer to both questions: OF COURSE.

There’s a reason that brands and products pay celebrities millions of dollars to be a part of their latest campaigns. As human beings we are drawn to beautiful things (which plays a significant role in determining who becomes a celebrity in the first place – how attractive they are) and the ideals they represent. In idolizing the stars we know best, we also tend to adopt their beliefs and attitudes and even mimic them in behavior. 

When Angelina began adopting her clan from all over the world, and Madonna famously adopted her son David from Malawi – even though the boy still had a biological father – suddenly there was a surge in international adoptions. According to one study from psychologists at the University of Liverpool, the sudden international adoption frenzy ultimately had a negative effect on children in poorer countries whose families would voluntarily give them up in hopes that a rich westerner would take them instead.

That said, plenty of celebrities will take on worthwhile social campaigns with the knowledge that their opinion has an affect on the public and can move people to action. From Al Gore almost single-handedly bringing global attention to climate change, to a legion of celebs taking on long-held social stigmas about feminism, input from our nation’s real kings, queens and pop princesses matters to us. And thank goodness for that.

With so much attention and news coverage devoted to the activities of celebrities, I find it hard to believe that a majority of Americans would know anything about what’s going on politically in our country if it weren’t for the occasional celebrity making some noise about it. Furthermore, watching a famous person use his or her voice encourages others to do the same, thereby prompting much-needed civic engagement.

Although the role of celebrity in our daily conscious has taken up a significant portion of our all-too-short attention spans, hearing a star use the platform to shed light on an issue of social significance comes as a refreshing break from the usual tabloid fodder. I say, keep the opinions coming (but make them count!).


Reach staff reporter Sarah Erickson here



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