Though the two worlds of entertainment and politics orbit around different issues and are inhabited by people who are structured somewhat differently, they always tend to meet and intermingle one way or another. Politicians have long been fascinated by leading ladies of the silver screen that made for some great stories of what happens when these two worlds collide.
We escape into the world of entertainment when we have had enough of being lost in the twisted maze of politics, but where do we go when we find the two becoming one? Whilst in the past celebrity lives were mostly mysterious to those outside their world, nowadays all thanks to tabloids and social networks, that mystery has been laid to rest.
Contrary to what many celebrity publicists will have you believe, celebrities are indeed human beings. Some of them with political and social concerns have chosen to break their silence and take up activism to fight for what they believe is sacred. But this freedom of expression comes at a price.
When a celebrity rallies for a cause they are at risk of losing fans, for you might very well love the celebrity but loathe their political position. Here lies the great sacrifice famous people have to face, to forgo their social responsibility knowing full well that they have a great platform from which they can be heard, or forever hold their peace in fear of losing the fame and money they worked so hard to attain.
During the uprising in Egypt the then-famous Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny was ostracised from Tahrir Square by the revolutionaries because they recalled that at the onset of the rallies he was sent by the government to advise them to go home. Hosny’s political position reduced the voice of Egypt’s young generation, who packed stages across the country, to a YouTube clip of the young man crying after being humiliated by the people of the revolution.
Meanwhile, as the Libyan people fought to regain control of their destiny it was revealed that both American singers Nelly and Beyoncé have been paid millions of dollars to appear for one of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi’s birthday bashes. Knowing full well what kind of reaction this political connection might have on their image, both singers stated that they have nothing to do with the dictator’s money and gave it back to the Libyan people.
Recently, the Belgian singer Lara Fabian, who was scheduled to sing in Lebanon for this year’s Valentine’s Day concert, had to withdraw due to an outcry by the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, because of pro-Israeli comments she had made.
The American actor Mel Gibson and Christian Dior’s once token designer John Galliano have both felt the wrath of the fans when both were caught voicing anti-Jewish comments. The former has had a hard time getting any of his work produced in Hollywood and the latter was immediately fired from his prestigious position at the House of Dior.
This backlash by fans over celebrities’ political backgrounds is not reserved only for actors and singers but applies to sports figures as well. During the height of the protests in Bahrain football players, who chose to partake in the rallies, have been named and shamed on Bahrain’s local television station, some even withdrew from the league as a result.
A work of art should be judged independently from its artist. Would a painting be as magnificent if we judged the hands that held the brush? Would a love poem be as passionate if we had preconceived notions that its writer was in fact cold and distant?
Most of us fail to see this distinction.
We must realise that diverse worlds such as these exist in a grey universe, where the colours black and white are forever blended. The inhabitants of each must know that stepping out of their territories could bring with it risks they might not be willing to take.
In the political world your views and moral standings are aimed at propelling you into the heights of your cause, but in the world of entertainment they could form the noose that would wrap around your neck. The choice is theirs to make but they do not pay the price alone, it is also paid by the people who once appreciated the art within them and now can no longer see it.
This article was first published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 29th Jan. 2012