Celebrities’ ‘civic duty’

Six years ago, Taylor Swift told Time Magazine: “I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people…And I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for.”

As many know, her views have since changed. After years of remaining apolitical, Swift took to Instagram back in October to endorse Tennessee senatorial candidate Phil Bredesen and House of Representatives candidate Jim Cooper. She has received unwarranted criticism on both ends of the spectrum–some said that she should have been brave enough to voice her opinions sooner, while others have argued that she shouldn’t have said anything at all.

This incident has sparked a general debate over whether or not celebrities should be voicing their political opinions or endorsing candidates. While the opinions of public figures often hold more weight than they should, there is no reason to stop these figures from speaking out, as long as audiences are wary of the one-sided approach that many celebrities take.

Anything can be interpreted as political, but there is a difference between sharing an experience and endorsing a candidate or a party and audiences need to recognize this. An actor or actress sharing an experience with sexual assault, for example can provide valuable insight on social realities. This is different than a celebrity telling their followers to vote for a certain candidate or platform, as the latter leads to bandwagoning with no real research on the audiences’ end.

Public opinions should not be formed by what celebrities say, but by thorough research and self-evaluation of one’s own morals. However, celebrities are people, and just like any other individuals, they have the right to choose between speaking out or staying silent. It is definitely not any celebrity’s “moral responsibility” to make their opinions known or use their platform to stand up for what they believe in, but if they choose to do so, they shouldn’t be attacked.

The reality is that celebrities do have a lot of influence over the opinions of their followers. While this is not ideal, it is not the fault of the celebrities that the press publicizes everything that they say, nor is it a celebrity’s fault that uneducated members of the public turn to them for political insight.

Regardless of whether or not Swift made the right decision in her post, the hate that she has received from Republican fans is unwarranted. Fans must realize that, just as it’s possible to like the cake a baker makes without agreeing with the baker’s politics, it’s possible to enjoy a song an artist has written or a movie that they’re in, without agreeing with the person.

As with anything, there are limits–if a celebrity is blatantly offensive, then it makes sense not to support them–but in general, intertwining entertainment with politics perpetuates unnecessary polarism in an industry that’s supposed to unite people more than it divides them.