I missed Cher.
This was Thursday night last week, at a rally in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle outside of a Trump hotel. I went, as I often do, to put my body on the line for something in which I believe. In this case, I wanted to stand with my fellow New Yorkers to express my horror about the Inauguration taking place the next day.
I stood there for about an hour. A woman sang, beautifully. Rosie Perez welcomed us. Alec Baldwin did his Trump impression. Steve Buscemi talked. New York City mayor Bill deBlasio spoke, followed by the mayor of Minneapolis. Michael Moore was very funny, but at this point, my back started to hurt, and I decided that I had been seen enough to make my statement.
I bring this up because so many people get upset or excited about celebrities expressing their political opinions. Some pundits speculate that one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election was that people were sick of her celebrity endorsers (including Katie Perry, Beyonce, Meryl Streep and Bruce Springsteen) campaigning for her.
We saw another flare-up of celebrity opinions, and the resulting backlash, this past week, at the Inauguration and the Women’s March. None of the so-called “A List” stars would perform for the Inauguration, which reportedly angered Trump and his followers. At the same time, a lot of celebrities spoke at the Women’s March, or simply marched with their friends, and without an entourage. Melissa Benoit (Supergirl), Peter Capaldi (the Doctor), Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek, among many others), Ian McKellan (Magneto, with a Patrick Stewart sign), Gillian Anderson (X-Files) were among those at marches around the world, and I’m sure I’m leaving out bunches. There was even a march at the Sundance Film Festival, where Nick Offerman was a treasure.
There were plenty of celebrities who didn’t march, either because the issues didn’t matter to them, or they had other responsibilities that day, or because they were actively hostile to the cause. One of them, posting on Twitter, was Piers Morgan, who thought he was being clever when he said he was organizing a Men’s March.
As a result of people actually reading what Morgan wrote and taking him at his word, there were reactions. One was that Ewan McGregor canceled an interview on Morgan’s show to promote his new movie. In a snit, Morgan shot back, “Sorry that Ewan McGregor’s not here. He couldn’t bear the thought of being on the sofa with me because he doesn’t agree with me about the women’s march. I have to agree with what an actor thinks about a particular issue because they’re actors. And as we know actors’ views are more important than anybody else’s.”
To me, McGregor decided he didn’t want to waste his time talking to someone whose views he found to be disgusting. That’s his right. I don’t think McGregor was saying his views are “more important than anybody else’s.” I think he decided that life was too short.
(However, if I was the publicist for T2 Trainspotting 2, I might have been less sanguine.)
Celebrities are frequently American citizens, and, as such, have the same right to free speech as the rest of us. And, like the rest of us, when they use this right, they sometimes reveal themselves to be educated and insightful, and other times they reveal themselves to be superficial and ignorant. Their opinions are no more or less important than anyone else’s.
Over the years, I’ve been at events (usually fundraisers for charities or politicians) where various celebrities have been in attendance. Sometimes they shut themselves off in a VIP area. Sometimes they mingle with the crowd. Sometimes they let you take selfies with them, and sometimes they even talk to you. In that, they are similar to the other people in attendance, except with bodyguards.
Our own little world of comics is part of this now, since, apparently, our new president is a Christopher Nolan fan. As many pointed out, Trump lifted some of his inaugural address from The Dark Knight Rises, which is even more amazing when one considers that the character he swiped from was Bane, the villain. Bane creators Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan were interviewed by several media outlets, and, in the process, described themselves as Trump supporters.
Good for them. I disagree, of course, but I was delighted that they presented their opinions in a sane, non-hysterical manner.
More typically comic-book people are the most fun to have this discussion, inspired by this event, about whether it’s okay to punch Nazis in the face. Warren Ellis weighed in, as did some other comics pros.
I must say, that, as a pacifist, I find the only thing more attractive than punching Nazis in the face would be punching Nazi vampires in the face. And I think that, for me, both are about as likely to happen.