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Sunday, October 17, 2021

The importance of celebrity endorsement at the Women’s March

RALPH DAILY [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR (changes made)
America Ferrera and Scarlett Johansson spoke fervently to Washington crowds

Celebrity endorsements have been historically effective for selling merchandise and procuring large profits — for both the recommended product and the illustrious sponsor. The exact opposite effect? Gratuitous and unanimous celebrity disapproval (often in 140 characters or fewer). Here, I’m not-so-cryptically referring to the Hollywood-wide dissent against President Donald Trump.

In the tense weeks leading up to the presidential inauguration, many called for a boycott of the televised event and many people actively protested in Washington, D.C. On Jan. 21, millions of Americans rallied together at Women’s Marches across the country and around the world to send a message: Hear our voice.

Among the attendees were celebrities, including actors Jessica Chastain and Nick Offerman, singer Alicia Keys and comedian Chelsea Handler, among many others. This is a different sort of celebrity endorsement. Yes, it would probably be more humanistic of me to refer to them simply as concerned Americans. But I invoke “celebrity” here to remind us that their public profiles grant them a platform. It’s the free tote that comes with the subscription. And yes, while it would be somewhat dehumanizing of me to constantly address them as “celebrities,” the fact of the matter is that they have major influence — for better or worse. But their participation in the Women’s March is undoubtedly a positive thing. Celebrity support of women’s rights and other social justice issues bolsters necessary conversation and the media’s (and subsequently, the general public’s) attention toward these problems.

Actress America Ferrera delivered some of the most resonant remarks during the march. From a podium in Washington, she said, “[T]he President is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay. We march today for our families and our neighbors, for our future, for the causes we claim and for the causes that claim us.”

In discussions surrounding Trumpist politics, the term ‘normalization’ is often used. One of the dangers of having Trump as president is that his hateful rhetoric will become a new norm. Ferrera speaks directly to this concern when she says that civilians, not bigoted politicians, are America. What remains unspoken is that Ferrera, much like Trump, invokes her power to influence. Their stances are completely different, however, as she attempts to unify and he seeks to divide.

Scarlett Johansson provided another important celebrity endorsement. She said, “President Trump, I did not vote for you. That said, I respect that you are our President-elect and I want to be able to support you.” In order for that to happen, she said that she wanted him to “support the men and women here today that are anxiously awaiting to see how [his] next moves may drastically affect their lives.” Johansson’s message was personal. She spoke of how her family and friends had relied on Planned Parenthood, which faces budget cuts under the new administration and Congress. Once again, we see how celebrity outreach in the emerging era of Trump is becoming increasingly important if we want to defend our rights.

What we see is a battle of powers: Hollywood versus Washington. It’s an arm wrestling match to see who can influence the most people. But make no mistake: we, the public, are not mere spectators. Like Ferrera pointed out, it’s up to us to decide which vision of America we want to endorse and enact. There is hope in such messages, and thankfully we have the entertainment industry backing the country through these trying times.
Written by: Jazmin Garcia — msjgarcia@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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