Meryl Streep didn’t exactly call for it, but Madonna most certainly did.
Can you hear me? Are you ready to shake up the world? Welcome to the revolution of love. To the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny. Where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people…It took this horrific moment of darkness to wake us the fuck up. It seems as though we all slipped into a false sense of comfort, that justice would prevail and that good would prevail in the end. Well, good did not win this election. But good will win in the end. So what today means is that we are far from the end. Today marks the beginning; the beginning of our story. The revolution starts here.
You know you’re doing something right when Newt Gingrich is calling for your arrest.
Michael, Prince, and Whitney tragically passed on; from the 1980s, our final surviving American music superstars are Madonna and Bruce. Here’s Bruce yesterday:
[They] rallied against hate and division and in support of tolerance, inclusion, reproductive rights, civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, the environment, wage equality, gender equality, healthcare, and immigrant rights. We stand with you. We are the new American resistance.
Oh, I know, I know, I know. The right will reflexively say “shut up and do your jobs” and “no one wants to hear what celebrities think” – Trump himself tweeted this since becoming President. But that doesn’t wash so well after electing a reality-TV star president. The next time someone tweets/comments “no one cares about celebrities,” see what they say when you reply “then why did you elect one?” When they complain about $1000 gowns for awards shows (that’s subtle sexism, by the way; you don’t hear about tuxedos), just tweet a picture of the recent inaugural ball. So far, the low-paid Moldovan Putin-hired Trumpkins haven’t exactly figured out any good ripostes, never mind re-posts.
The thing is, it’s a Twitter war now. (Instagram mostly remains apolitical, a sweet refuge of scenery, the modern equivalent of screen-savers.) In the world that Trump conquered, the world of Twitter, what’s true? Who knows? Certainly the Trump administration has done everything in its power to discredit every source except itself. Certainly, Thomas Friedman has been yelling for two decades now that “the world is flat,” that elites are losing control. So we’re stuck with who has the most twitter/instagram followers, particularly the ones that have more followers than Cheeto Jesus. Luckily for the left, that includes many liberal-sympathetic celebrities: Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, and Selena Gomez. They’re already visible; they can’t help that. And I think I recall a blockbuster that said “With great power comes great responsibility.”
You going to tell me that the Muscular Dystrophy Association would have raised $2.5 billion for itself during the last 50 years without Jerry Lewis’ telethon? Please. I’ve written books about stars, so let me give you the tl;dr three-word version: Stars affect things. Let’s stop pretending they don’t, can’t, or shouldn’t.
Now, you might argue that if these people get too political, people will stop following them. Uh, yeah, I doubt you’ll see two or three thousand unfollows make much of a dent in the overall totals. Did you know that filmmaker and Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s first interview after becoming Trump’s first hire wasn’t to Fox News or The New York Times, but to the Hollywood Reporter? Look it up. And Trump’s Treasury Secretary – the job created by and first performed by Alexander Hamilton – is a Hollywood guy named Steve Mnuchin.
(Trump’s Cabinet could use more showbiz, not less. Back in those innocent days of 2015, a lot of people speculated that Trump would make Howard Stern his vice-president, and the Wack Pack his Cabinet. I think we can all agree that Baba Booey, Robin Quivers, and Stuttering John Melendez would make a terrific Cabinet compared to the Legion of Super-villains we’re going to get.)
The bottom line is that when a person says “no one cares what Hollywood thinks” he looks like he has never heard of social media.
Speaking of turning the right’s arguments against them, their years of defending the 10th Amendment are working out well for California’s Governor, Jerry Brown. No doubt, whoever becomes California’s next governor in 2018 – whether it’s former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaragosa or talk-show darling Gavin Newsom (whose wife is the filmmaker behind Miss Representation) – will be relying on, and happily supported by, much of Tinseltown. And so the country will go as it always has, eventually doing what California does, right?
Well, there’s one teensy problem with asking famous actors and musicians to lead the resistance to the Trump administration. By and large, they want to make money, not make messages. Right?
Thing is, the idea of “If you want to send a message, call Western Union” is beginning to look as antiquated as the studio mogul who said it, Samuel Goldwyn. It’s hard to argue with any of James Suroweicki’s piece about how corporations are now the new vanguards of (some kinds of) social justice.
And yes, as he says, “The emergence of companies as social activists is complicating traditional attitudes on both the left and the right.” But with Trump in charge of all three branches of government, the time for hesitation and ambivalence has passed. The time for by-any-means-necessary has begun. If you want to send a message, let’s call for a West-led Union.
So celebrities should be joining with Fortune 500 companies, and when possible Fortune 25 companies, to resist the worst excesses of the Trump administration. Madonna, for example, seems prepared to die on this hill, and why not? I don’t think we’re missing out on a “Like a Prayer”-quality album if she devotes her time to this fight instead. Looking at Will Smith’s last few movies, I’m not sure we’re missing much if he also devotes himself full time to activism. Sure, this will all seem silly tomorrow when the town goes agog for the Oscar nominations and pats itself on the back for missing a third straight year of #oscarssowhite, but…it’s not silly. It’s life and death.
What exactly am I talking about? Maybe some movies like Leo DiCaprio’s about the Earth, but not just that. More like: joint efforts with corporations to produce rallies, petitions, phone-banks, fundraising. Not necessarily for Democrats, but instead against the worst parts of the Trump agenda. In other words, above all else, protecting human rights, protecting the climate, and protecting the Constitution. I would argue that celebrities should focus on policies that 51% or more of Americans agree with, but Trump has given them plenty of space to find those. Just don’t get derailed by hard-left issues (reparations and a universal living wage will have to wait); instead focus on what they are paid to know, which is how to appeal to Middle America and its stable communities.
77 years ago, Hannah “Nasty Woman” Arendt wrote a 500-page book about how totalitarian movements form and assume power. Much of “The Origins of Totalitarianism” is pretty damn discouraging, especially considering that it IS 77 years later. But then Arendt busts out this:
Yet they too are deceived, deceived by their impudent idea that everything can be done and their contemptuous conviction that everything that exists is merely a temporary obstacle that superior organization will certainly destroy. Confident that power of organization can destroy power of substance, as the violence of a well-organized gang might rob a rich man of ill-guarded wealth, they constantly underestimate the substantial power of stable communities and overestimate the driving force of a movement. Since, moreover, they do not actually believe in the factual existence of a world conspiracy against them, but use it only as an organizational device, they fail to understand that their own conspiracy may eventually provoke the whole world into uniting against them.
“Eventually” starts now.