I debated for a long time whether or not to write a post like this one on my blog, but the recent backlash against Meryl Streep for speaking up at the Golden Globes against Trump and his supporters has inspired me. But let me explain why I was so hesitant at first:
About a month or so ago, an article from litreactor.com was floating around on Twitter advising artists and writers not to “get political” in public. Similarly, in the last week or so a country singer named Travis Tritt tweeted that “actors, musicians and entertainers” should “stick to their crafts that we all love you for and drop the political rhetoric.”
Famous writers, celebrities, musicians, etc. faced backlash during the hellhole that was the 2016 Election Season, and continue to face that backlash now, with many “fans” vowing to boycott everything else those artists produced and telling them to “stay in their lane.” “You’re just a [writer/artist/singer/actor/etc.], stick to your day job — you have no idea what you’re talking about.” According to the litreactor article, these entertainers’ decisions to partake in political discussions killed their brand.
Now, my audience is not nearly as wide as those of the authors and other entertainers and artists I follow on Twitter. But I am a young writer who hopes to have a good career in the future, and I worried that if I tackled this issue I would, like the aforementioned post says, alienate my potential audience.
But here’s the thing:
Before I am — before WE are writers or artists or entertainers, we are human beings.
We are not products. To quote the greatest movie of 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road: “WE ARE NOT THINGS.”
And say whatever dismissive BS you want about “identity politics,” but dammit, the personal IS political. Many campaign promises Trump made involve passing laws that would personally affect hundreds of thousands of people, from young women hoping to have a healthy, baby-free, sexual relationship with the men they love (including married couples, because yes, even married couples use birth control), to Muslim-American citizens facing threats of violence; from journalists (and YES, FICTION WRITERS AND ENTERTAINERS) who dare speak their minds against Trump with the potential of “quietly disappearing” because Trump won’t allow people to disagree with him, to future generations who have to live with whatever climate disasters Trump’s greedy environmental (or rather economic) decisions cause. And even those writers and artists who do not get political in public are facing potential loss of their insurance, because, newsflash, writers and artists are underpaid and their own employers and thus have to rely on the Affordable Care Act.
This election will have very real consequences for very real people. Our concerns are valid.
To tell entertainers and artists and writers that they are not allowed to hold opinions or express concern regarding politics is to rob them of their humanity.
By all means, you are free to spend your money elsewhere and ignore what those people have to say, but you cannot silence them. You cannot take away their rights. You cannot force them to stunt their feelings for your own sake, your own comfort.
And admittedly this goes both ways. Just because I supported Hillary does not mean that I think Trump’s supporters’ political concerns are invalid. I understand that many of them have economic concerns, and hope that Trump will fix those issues (despite evidence that he most likely won’t keep any of his promises in that category). But I disagree with them on an ethical level, and so if I discover that someone I once respected supports Trump, I stop spending money on them. That’s fine. It’s fine for them to stop spending money on anti-Trump entertainers as well. It’s a free country. For now.
But always keep in mind that every entertainer, every artist, every writer, etc. is a human being, whose livelihoods — whose lives — are impacted by politics just as much as yours is. And in some cases (for example, for minority entertainers), perhaps even more.
And besides, art/entertainment and politics have been closely linked for as long as they have existed side-by-side. That’s why when dictators and fascists rise to power, the first thing they do is burn books and threaten entertainers, because they know writers (and journalists and librarians and teachers and celebrities) will expose their corruption and try to encourage the public to think freely. Holy shit, even Shakespeare was political. Dostoyevsky. Rushdie. Charlie Chaplin. And it’s no secret the Death Eaters or the Empire are allegories for fascist regimes.
Art and entertainment have been used to provide commentary on the politics of their time forever, and telling artists/entertainers to “stay in their lane” is so ignorant. This is as much a part of our lane as it is a part of everyone else’s.
(And on a side note — entertainers and artists are not obligated to discuss politics either. I have seen people online ask for certain minority authors to weigh in on issues they did not feel like discussing. It’s okay to be non-political. It’s also okay to be political. Fuck your “brand.” Be respectful, be the best version of you, keep doing what you love, and that is all.)
Not to mention: The man currently in our highest political office? He’s a fucking celebrity. So before you go telling other celebrities to “stay in their lane,” think about who you voted for.
Now that that is off my chest, back to writing fiction.