The Complete Meaninglessness Of (& Backlash Against) Celebrity Endorsements

Photo Credit: Raymond Hall / Getty Contributor.
It's the day after the election, and a few words are being repeated over and over again: fear, hope, shock, confusion, disappointment, and uncertainty among them. While much of what's to come is unclear, one message that's come out of this fraught election season is crystal-clear: Celebrity endorsements do not matter as much as we thought. The endorsements of Hollywood totally failed to do what many of us hoped they might. Celebrities lauded Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her experience, her grace, her determination, her strength, her nastiness. Meryl Streep said she had "grit." Oprah said it was a "sentimental moment for women." Adele said, "I love her, she's amazing." Beyoncé said, "I want my daughter to grow up seeing a woman lead our country and know that her possibilities are limitless."
Those are just a few of the powerful statements made regarding Clinton during her campaign. In addition to the most successful and influential members of our pop culture landscape endorsing one candidate vehemently over the other, the vast majority of the media (traditional media and millennial-fueled social media alike) were extremely vocal against the now President-elect Donald Trump. In a year full of surprises, is the complete worthlessness of these endorsements one of the most shocking revelations? In a way, yes. The world of celebrity has always been an aspirational one — a land of glitz, glamour, privilege, and influence. Now, it seems all that has been debunked.
In the direct aftermath of Trump being announced as the 45th president of the United States, it's natural to look for someone else to blame. It's particularly easy to direct animosity toward the celebrities who convinced so many of us that Clinton had the election in the bag. Scrolling through my own personal Instagram and Twitter feeds, I don't remember seeing one #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. There were thousands (and I mean thousands) of #ImWithHer and #Hillary2016 hashtags flooding my feeds. This same pro-Hillary climate was also reflected in my workplace, filled with driven, college-educated, millennial women. The question surrounding the election wasn't, "Who will win?" it was, "By how much will Clinton trump Trump?" Now things have changed, and Twitter is gathering its pitchforks to express utter disappointment with the lack of influence celebrities have had in swaying our country to the left.
The skewed perspective of my surroundings made the final announcement a feel like a forceful blow. But are we really to look toward Hollywood for guidance, solace, and comfort now? The election result has served as a harsh wake-up call that celebrities are social constructs, whose job is to provide entertainment and escape for us from our daily lives, not to lead us to our nation's next leader. The disconnect between the millionaires in La-La Land and the majority of American people is a deeper and wider trench than we realized a month, a week, a day ago. Hollywood has a deep and complicated relationship with both parties. The early years of the studio era, in the 1920s and '30s, were a much more conservative time for Hollywood (just look up Mary Pickford, and her work promoting Liberty Bonds), followed by the blacklist era of the '50s, and then the heavily left-leaning days of more recent decades. If Hollywood is a club, today one often feels obligated to be a Democrat to join, according to a conservative Hollywood producer. Part of the allure and legacy of Obama's time in the White House has been his close ties to pop culture. He invited rappers to the White House. He let Frank Ocean attend a White House Correspondents' Dinner while wearing Vans. He snapchatted. He dropped the mic. He embraced his celebrity while maintaining his presidency. But to much of America, this was not part of the plan. He was too cool, too hip, too urban. That's what is unsettling. I'm not surprised that Katy Perry hosting the DNC didn't get her candidate elected. But I am floored that the endorsement of someone like Milo Yiannopoulos did his.

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