A few months ago, in simpler times, we were overrun by the season of Hollywood Award shows. The BAFTAS, Golden Globes and the Oscars, all days away from one another. Surely, it’s an important season to recognise the work from the industry, but it’s also a time of hype being stirred around nominations, host and presenters, fashion statements etc. But the most important thing is the post show chatter that emerges around the sociopolitical statements made by celebrities. Now it is a time when they receive centre stage, giving their voice immense power, but what is important is the way their voices are used.
Celebrities are at the pinnacle of influence, especially in a time and age where influencer culture is thriving. Yet when these same celebrities wield their power for the better, they are questioned and face backlash with trending hashtags such as #HollywoodHypocrite. But before we jump to conclusions, there is so much more to it.
Undeniably, celebrities have a major impact on our thought processes and act as a catalyst for change. Moreover, their industry is a reflection of how society sees and represents itself, so when you are involved in an industry that mirrors society, you automatically assume a responsible citizen’s role. The problem stems when celebrities urge people to do better and be better whilst making no effort on their own individual parts to make a change. Many celebrities truly fit into Ricky Gervais’ version of celebrities when he says “you’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing about the real world”, and that’s because some of them genuinely don’t. But does that mean we should stop wanting better and doing better as a whole industry because of a few hypocritical statements?
Something is always more powerful than nothing, and the 2020 award shows were definitely something in terms of addressing climate change, race and gender discrimination, women’ rights, amongst other things. And the difference was a keen sense of ownership, acknowledgement and concrete actions to actually practice what they preach. Joaquin Phoenix was bold enough to make statements such as “I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here”. He was direct and accepting of his own fault by stating “he was part of the problem”, and recognised the privileged position he holds, and how he needs to do more with it, and being ashamed for not already doing so. This was a big win for Phoenix and to stand there and accept fault and apologise is a considerable gesture in his acceptance speech.
“the difference was a keen sense of ownership, acknowledgement and concrete actions to actually practice what they preach”
The Golden Globes were equally heated with strong statements from celebrities regarding climate change and the fires taking over Australia. Russel Crowe, despite not being at the award show, made sure to urge audiences to respect our planet in order to have a future. While many might believe that these are just words, there are only words that can be delivered at these award shows. The Golden Globes did go a step further and served an all plant based vegan meal, solidifying their determination in doing better for the planet. Meat consumption is one of the highest contributors to our carbon footprint, so while it was just one meal of the evening, the message it served is long lasting. Phoenix once again accepted ownership on behalf of the entire industry regarding climate change as he stated, “We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for award shows”; he highlights that there are problems within the system, but if you don’t speak out about it, it will never be solved.
“there are problems within the system, but if you don’t speak out about it, it will never be solved”
Award shows bring every contributing member of the film and television industry under one roof, it is broadcast worldwide and reported on incessantly. Do these factors combined not make it an excellent platform to address issues that are pertinent to our society? They may be hypocritical, they may be empty words, but they also may be extremely vital in highlighting things we ignore, and help realign our focus. We see them on the real screen, addressing issues and making a difference, and we should definitely encourage seeing them practice the same in real life.
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