Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Hollywood elite don’t really like President Donald Trump. Meryl Streep has made her opinions abundantly clear, and many of her cohorts have echoed their agreement.
However, a piece at the New York Times about Shia LaBeouf and his performance-art activism touches on a point that can’t be made enough:
The occasion of Harry Belafonte’s 90th birthday landing within a few days of the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday makes it a good moment to think about what celebrity political activism looked like a half-century ago, when Mr. Belafonte’s service in the civil rights movement involved acting as a confidant to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and what it looks like now.
Given the current tensions, the Oscars are sure to deliver a number of speeches, in greater volume than might ordinarily be expected, devoted to doing more than merely thanking the good people at Warner Bros. and William Morris Endeavor. Even if our sympathies perfectly line up with the substance of what is said, many of us will find ourselves annoyed — at the prospective opportunism, the posturing, the stridency, the absence of connection in some cases between words and meaningful action.
Hollywood, for the most part, has positioned itself as one of Donald J. Trump’s chief institutional antagonists, and yet only a nation that had fully absorbed the values of show business could have elected him president. A culture that put a man whom many view as a pathological narcissist at the top of American government has also produced, rather logically, a response to his various offenses, among entertainers, that is tainted by a similar self-regard.
Obviously, celebrities have the same rights anyone else has regarding free speech. They’re free to voice their opinions just as I do. Unfortunately, there’s something that escapes them, and that is their hubris to believe that they’re smarter than anyone on the other side simply because they can memorize some words on a page for a bit and deliver them like they actually mean it. In other words, they can tell other people’s lies believably.
The article talks about Shia LaBeouf’s art installation proclaiming “We Will Not Be Divided,” which immediately started proving that we are divided. Deeply. The installation was shut down after people in the neighborhood contacted officials to complain about the noise.
LaBeouf argued that it was shut down for political reasons, claiming only one person complained to him, so it was really a non-issue. Yep — people totally would call a celebrity rather than the police to make a noise complaint.
I enjoy movies and television as much as the next guy, and probably more than him if I’m honest about it. However, I’m also realistic enough to know that the people I see on my screen aren’t any smarter than the public at large, and in many cases are blithering idiots who are using the only talent they have in order to make a living. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to understand this.
I’m kind of surprised the New York Times of all people actually reminded them of it.