Many of today’s celebrities have an innate sense of where the public stands on key issues facing the nation like immigration, same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama’s effectiveness as a leader.
They just happen to take the opposite stance on many of them.
Why else would actors like Sean Penn and Danny Glover snuggle up to rabidly anti-American leaders like Hugo Chavez?
So it’s not surprising that as soon as Arizona announced new legislation cracking down on illegal immigration celebrities would assault the decision.
Columbian pop singer Shakira was among the first to weigh in, using the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that doesn’t move the debate forward a single inch.
“It is unjust and it’s inhuman, and it violates the civil and human rights of the Latino community … It goes against all human dignity, against the principles of most Americans I know,” the singer said.
Which reminds us of the famous line by movie critic Pauline Kael regarding the 1972 presidential election—“I don’t know how Nixon won. No one I know voted for him.”
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, when he isn’t mocking people with disabilities or using sexual jokes to savage former Gov. Sarah Palin, quickly played the Nazi card when describing the new legislation.
“Nobody but the Nazis ever asked anybody for their papers,” MacFarlane told Reuters Television. “Walking down the street, a cop can come up to you and say ‘May I see your papers? I think they should be required to ask that question in German if the law sticks around.”
MacFarlane either didn’t read the bill or watches way too much MSNBC, since the actual legislation doesn’t resemble what he suggests.
Many celebrities relied on the social media site Twitter to share their ill informed rants.
Comedian George Lopez wielded his legendary wit to blast the Arizona legislation not once but Tweeted twice recently:
“ARIZONA .. George Lopez is coming .. Oops .. I just got pulled over .. Apparently I fit the profile .. Gacho !!”
And then, “AZ announces the first Spray Tanning Shop that sprays you lighter “the Casper.” Tougher to Profile.”
Not to be outdone, singer Ricky Martin also spoke out via Twitter:
“Racial profiling should never be tolerated, in the US or anywhere in the world. We’re moving backwards. Scary.”
The next time someone at the airport gives Grannie a full-body search you can thank Mr. Martin for helping steer public policy.
“Desperate Housewives” hottie Eva Longoria Parker used the re-Tweet function on the social media site to share the musings of both Lopez and Martin, then seconded a Tweet from President Barack Obama’s official account—“The recent legislation in Arizona threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness.”
Shouldn’t Hollywood types be creative enough to craft their own ill-informed Tweets?
Actor John Leguizamo went old school to attack the new legislation, dubbing it “legalized hate crimes” during a video interview.
The case behind “Machete,” an upcoming exploitation film by “Sin City” director Robert Rodriguez, might be the most illogical of them all.
Here’s a film that’s already looking at a small audience in the best-case scenario. It‘s a spin-off from a project, “Grindhouse,” that stiffed in theaters. R-rated genre films don’t attract the romantic-comedy crowd.
The film’s leading actor (Danny Trejo) is a bit player most movie fans couldn’t pick out of a lineup. Heck, Lindsay Lohan nabbed a co-starring role in the film. What else could go against it?
Well, Rodriguez recently re-cut the film’s trailer to send a direct message to Arizona.
“We didn’t cross the border … the border crossed us,” cries co-star Jessica Alba in what’s meant to be a rallying cry for our hero’s minions.
Perhaps Rodriguez and his peers missed the polls showing a super-majority of Arizona residents support the new measures, while a majority of citizens across the country do as well.
Let’s state the obvious before things go too far. Actors, singers and other entertainers can say anything they bloody well please. But speaking out has consequences, and for entertainers that means fans might think twice about buying their products.
Few patrons would mind if their political views don’t match their favorite actor or singer. Audiences don’t bring press clippings to the local Cineplex to help them choose that night’s entertainment.
But they do reject celebrities who discard their views in such incendiary terms.
The Pew Research Center recently released a poll saying only 33% approve of the entertainment industry. It’s a shocking state of affairs for an industry which exists solely to delight, not divide, audiences. The industry’s numbers should be sky high.
But today’s entertainment product routinely insults vast swathes of the public either by insulting them—witness the “Machete” trailer—or by ignoring their customs, as the dearth of faith-based filmmaking suggests.
Yet the more actors speak their mind on divisive issues, the more those numbers are likely to sink.