Celebrities Changing the World?

Here’s a piece by the brilliant Grace Dent in the i paper on the impact of celebrities opposing Trump. It’s also a lesson for politicians here, of course.

When William Morris wrote “Nothing useless can be truly beautiful” he patently had never visualised an anti-Trump public service announcement starring the thinking woman’s crumpet Mark Rufallo and “A sh*t ton” of other famous people, including Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr, James Franco, and Don Cheadle. Because the “Save the Day” video, 3 minutes of comedy with a kick, truly is beautiful. And very funny, too.

This film, encouraging people to register to vote in order to keep the Donald from the door, is a Joss Whedon production. Whedon is the man behind Buffy… Dollhouse and Agents of Shield and this film, as you might expect, is snappy, self aware, and without an inch of spare flesh. It pokes fun at all those formulaic po-faced, preachy celebrity appeals we’ve sat through before. Whedon nails the plinky-plonk piano and sombre script read plaintively in multiple famous voices, cutting occasionally to a lumpen and in this case Hispanic, “real person” to root the message in a few inches of sincerity. The whole thing is almost beat-perfect. But… useless.

Because if you’re the sort of American citizen who’s excited to wake up to a wry, erudite titbit from the brain of Joss Whedon starring Martin Sheen and James Franco, I’ll wager that it had already crossed your mind to register for a vote anyway. It is, after all, now 100 days since Trump threw his hat into the ring for GOP nomination, with his candid views on Mexican rapists and inconvenient pregnant women. And Whedon himself wouldn’t have had the brass neck to first draft a scene as preposterous as Trump pledging to “Build the greatest wall that you’ve ever seen”.

Say what you like about Donald Trump, but he has not been stingy in giving any sentient being qualified to vote in the US some shove to double-check their name is on that register. No one who loved Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore in the 107 minute long lesbian sperm-donor emo amble The Kids are All Right is waking this morning to fresh news of a mysterious horizontal-haired Joker who aims to harness the Free World for his own bidding.

If anything, Whedon’s video could motivate the disenfranchised who previously didn’t care about voting simply to vote what they feel is “anti celebrity”. Let’s call it the Emma Thompson Effect, in tribute to that point in February when millions of people with no meaningful view on the EU referendum heard a multi-millionaire megastar call Britain “a misery-laden cake-fuelled grey old island”. In the case of “Save the Day”, James Falco, God love him, will never quite understand that despite being voted Sexiest Man Living by salon.com, he is not someone the average man on the street sees as a kindred spirit.

Trump’s ever growing “basket of deplorables” will not,I feel, be shamed into joining Team Hillary by hot’n’fresh news from Don Cheadle that Trump is “a racist, abusive coward who could permanently damage the fabric of our society”. Despite this being a brilliant line, and powerfully delivered by Cheadle, it is worth remembering that America’s “Fabric of society” is precisely what Trump finds dissatisfactory right now.

I respect the celebrities in Whedon’s video for sending themselves up as cosseted figures with really deep thoughts who polarize public opinion. It’s a shame they are never quite self aware enough to shut up.

Here’s the youTube clip. see if it works for you.

This draws parallels with the ongoing debate and problems with the Brexit vote in Britain. It is not enough to shout from the rooftops the benefits of a certain action – though of course the shouting here was muted and seemed uncommitted.

If you are trying to solve a problem, or to get people to do a certain thing, you need to know what people actually think, why they support something which you want to change. You need to address these issues, not yours.  

Trotting out celebrities just isn’t enough. As Grace writes, the celebrities are part of the elite that Trump is ranting against. Whedon’s film is preaching largely to the converted. It may get a few fellow travellers to sign up to vote, but I suspect this clever film will be counter productive. Shouting at people to do something only works if they support you in the first place.

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