BEG: Celebrity ‘activism’ often insincere, hypocritical

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Photo by AFP

Current Australia bushfires have killed an estimated one billion animals and burned 18 million acres of land. Photo via Flickr.

Earlier this week, celebrity Kylie Jenner posted an Instagram story that brought attention to the current bushfire disaster occurring in Australia. The picture was of a firefighter holding a koala bear with the caption: “Over half a billion animals have been killed in Australia. This breaks my heart….”

The next slide of her social media story was a picture of her wearing pink Louis Vuitton slippers made from mink, the animal, with the caption “baby pink toes.”

People on the internet were quick to call out Jenner for the blatant hypocrisy on her social media posts. One minute she seems heartbroken over the horrible situation in Australia and its effect on the wildlife, and the next she is wearing a dead animal on her feet.

The sentiments were completely contradictory and made it seem like Jenner did not genuinely care about the fires or the millions of animals killed. Fans and followers were disappointed in her disingenuous efforts toward the large-scale disaster, especially since she is a billionaire.

After the controversy surrounding her Instagram story broke, Jenner decided to donate $1 million to help fight the wildfires in Australia, according to People magazine. This is a massive amount of money that will hopefully make a sufficient impact in Australia’s efforts to fight the natural disaster, but it is hard not to question Jenner’s true motives. It seemed like she donated that money to help remove herself from the scandal and prevent any further backlash about her hypocrisy. No matter her motives, it was still a very influential act, and it is respectable that Jenner let her actions speak louder than her words.

This is a phenomenon that is popular in celebrity and entertainment culture. Celebrities understand that the public wants and sometimes expects them to use their influence positively with the amount of authority they hold. Because of this, they make it seem like they care or are taking action against issues that affect various communities.

In reality, their actions speak louder than whatever social media post or short speech they make about it.

Award shows are times where this insincere and fake effort in the entertainment and celebrity world is apparent. During award ceremonies, recipients and other prominent celebrities will use their time on stage to address ongoing crises because they are aware of the mass amount of people watching. It is a chance to boost their reputations and get credit for being responsible, educated citizens. However, what these influential people do outside of these events is not always consistent with what they preach about in their speeches.

For example, actress Cate Blanchett used her 30-second acceptance speech at the 2020 Golden Globes award show to discuss the Australian bushfires. Other than that, there is no public record available that shows any further action from her. Blanchett did not even inform the audience of steps they could take to help solve the crisis. With her popularity and fame, Blanchett is an individual who would have the means to help alleviate the crisis and make a significant contribution.

Russell Crowe is an example of a celebrity who used his airtime to truly fight for the cause he promoted. Although he won a Golden Globe award this year, he did not attend the show. Instead, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon accepted the statue on his behalf. Rather, he spent his time protecting his home in Australia and firefighting to help with the disaster. He showed his true passion through taking action for what he believed in.

Yes, awareness is always the first step toward solving a problem, but some celebrities are among the richest individuals in the world. They have the capability to donate a lot of money or partake in other forms of action, such as volunteering or protesting, that would create a much bigger impact than normal people could. With the power and responsibility celebrities hold, they should be held to much higher standards.

These standards include being educated and knowledgeable about the companies or people from which celebrities choose to work for. Various streaming companies, such as Apple and Amazon, are not the most morally sound, according to various accounts from inside the company factories and workshops. According to ABC, Apple uses Chinese sweatshops to create their products, and, according to Time, Amazon is known for abusing their employees through forcing inhumane work hours and exerting intense pressure on them to complete their work. Celebrities’ efforts and “activism” become hypocritical and come off as insincere when they work for companies that abuse human rights.

It feels impossible to consistently choose to work with or use ethical companies when it seems every popular option has a bad reputation. At the same time, celebrities can use their efforts to speak out against the injustices or help those affected. Such action will make celebrities much more reputable, and any future effort they take will be deemed credible and not hypocritical.

By choosing to become highly popular movie stars, artists or whatever else it is that places certain individuals in the spotlight, celebrities must understand they now have an influence over their fans and the general public. When the world is constantly suffering from different crises, it is the responsibility of influencers to make an impact and help enact real change.

This story was written by Aminah Beg. She can be reached at aminah.beg@marquette.edu.