Oooh, Shiny! — Celebrities’ Involvement in Social Issues

by Gemma Brand-Wolf

T-Swizzle and Kanye way back in 2010

What do Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and a flashing light in the corner of your eye have in common? At first glance, nothing. But when each one of these, in its own way, draws our curiosity like a magnet of distraction, I can’t help but wonder why our celebrities, instead of using their fame to positively influence the global community, present a diversion from the real issues of our society. Especially in the last few months, with the rise of Trump and an increase in racial discrimination, the attention attracted by celebrity drama (that of Kanye West and Taylor Swift specifically) has also experienced a dramatic surge. Is it a coincidence that, during one of the most turbulent times in recent history, celebrities are suddenly providing more and more distraction from what is really important?

Example of a distracting shiny object (found in the LA School of Doodle offices)

If you are unaware of the theatrics currently on display between Kimye and T-Swizzle, I am eternally impressed by your concentration and ability to ignore the shiny objects on the sidelines. Essentially, what has been exploding through channels including E! News, People Magazine, Buzzfeed, Rolling Stone, and even The Huffington Post, began when Kanye West decided to include a misogynistic and condescending line in his new track “Famous,” specifically detailing his opinion of Taylor Swift. The lyric in question is: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.” Accompanied by a catchy beat and Rihanna’s soulful feature, this lyric can fly by, lost among the other endearingly arrogant lines of the song. However, it perpetuates two chauvinistic themes: 1) that Tay’s fame and success are entirely due to the involvement of a man, and 2) that all Kanye values her for is her sexuality. Since the release of “Famous,” countless celebrities have gotten involved, backing up whoever they agree with at the time. T-Swizzle has gained the support of Selena Gomez, Ruby Rose, and other friends; Kimye (as Kim immediately jumped to her husband’s defense) has recruited Kardashian sisters galore, along with those who support the fam. With each additional celeb, the momentum behind this “feud” grows, stoking the fire of distraction, and effectively attracting much of the attention that should be given to the political instability of the US.

All of this causes me to wonder: what would happen if celebrities, known so ignominiously for their tendency toward the dramatic, directed their influence toward activism? Some celebrities have done just this, and it is amazing the number of people who are impacted as a result. Zendaya, for one, tweeted in response to Alton Sterling’s death:

Other celebrities, including Amy Schumer, Olivia Wilde, Rashida Jones, and many more, have also contributed their voices and, therefore, their fans, to the cause. To me, it is amazing to see what happens when those shiny objects in the periphery, usually diversions from the task at hand, can also be used to lead us in a decidedly better direction. In the case of Taylor vs. Kimye, the flashing overtakes any message of importance that could be delivered. However, it is not impossible for the flashiness of celebrities to be utilized as a metaphorical road flare, an SOS distress signal, calling attention to the areas of our society that are in desperate need of rescue.

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