Hollywood Has A Long History Of Political Activism

by Jill Zwarensteyn

Today’s Hollywood landscape seems to combine just as much political activism as it does entertainment. This year’s Oscar ceremony had viewership at an all-time low, which some claimed had to do with the heightened political and social messages surrounding the awards ceremony in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against workplace sexual harassment and assault. Attendees and awards-winners also discussed topics including racism, immigration rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ rights.

Regardless of whether or not the views expressed by the filmmakers played a role in this year’s ratings, there seems to be a constant push and pull when it comes to celebrities and the public’s reception of their political activism. There are many across the country and around the world cheering on Hollywood for standing up for things like equality, diversity, immigration, and gun reform, to name a few. There are also other people out there who feel that Hollywood is too political and should instead focus on entertainment.

As annoyed as some may feel about the politicization of the entertainment industry, it’s actually anything but new. Hollywood has an immense history of simultaneously combining art with social and political awareness and progression. From the films and television shows that inspired conversation and change to the trailblazing actors and entertainers that helped initiate a more diverse Hollywood, the industry has always had a mindfulness of the world around it. The common thread in storytelling is expressing the human condition, and as the outside world continues to change, as does the artistry reflective of that. TV shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family, and films likeGuess Who’s Coming to Dinnerand Philadelphiawere groundbreaking for the topics they highlighted, but they were also representative of what was going in our society.

Today, however, it seems like the biggest frustration with celebrities is that they are speaking out themselves, but again, this is anything but new. Marlon Brando had Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather speak on his behalf for his Best Actor win for The Godfather at the 1973 Oscars. In her speech, she addressed the unjust representation of Native Americans in the film industry as Brando’s reason for not being able to accept the award. Many celebrities attended the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, including Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, and Jackie Robinson.

We tend to forget that celebrities are just as much citizens and people as they are artists and entertainers. We are all human beings and deserve to have our voices heard.

top photo: Actors (from L to R) Jurnee Smollett Bell, Alfre Woodard, Lupita Nyong’o, and Yvette Nicole Brown via Instagram/Time’s Up

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