It’s no secret that Hollywood overwhelmingly leans to the left side of the political spectrum. Celebrities often use their fame and fortunes as outlets through which they can advance their liberal ideas. When the media is filled with stories of these celebrities espousing leftwing ideas and often indoctrinating young fans to hold similar views on big issues, it can be frustrating for those who identify as conservative. Even more frustrating, however, is hearing of backlash received by those few celebrities willing to break out of the liberal mold and openly express views that differ from those held by the majority of the entertainment industry.
Rob Lowe, who rose to stardom in the 1980s as a member of the “Brat Pack” and went on to star in shows such as The West Wing and Parks and Recreation, was once a part of Hollywood’s liberal majority. In the ‘80s, he campaigned for Michael Dukakis as well as for environmental reforms alongside other celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Michael J. Fox. Yet today, while not fully identifying as a conservative, his political views tend to lean a different direction than they did previously. Espousing more centrist or libertarian ideas, Lowe has been quoted as believing strongly in “personal freedoms,” wanting the government “out of almost everything.”
During the most recent Democratic town hall debate, candidate Bernie Sanders stated that, to pay for all of the promised entitlements making him so popular with liberals, he will raise taxes and force Wall Street to “start paying their fair share.” Rob Lowe took to Twitter to express frustration with Sanders’ plan for taxation reform. Poking fun at Sanders’ characteristic speaking mannerisms, Lowe tweeted: “Watching Bernie Sanders. He’s hectoring and yelling at me WHILE he’s saying he’s going to raise our taxes. Interesting way to communicate.” Naturally, the Twitter community was incensed by the actor’s desire not to have his tax rate skyrocket dramatically to pay for Sanders’ socialist plans. Individuals began tweeting Lowe demanding that he, as a millionaire, pay his fair share of taxes because they (who make far less and therefore pay less of a percentage of their income in taxes) claim they wouldn’t mind doing the same. Lowe responded to one user that he has been paying taxes since the age of 15, and later posted a video clip from The West Wing with the caption “Attention Sen. Sanders.” The video portrayed Lowe’s character Sam Seaborn, a Democrat, stating that while the fictional president’s tax plan would not cut taxes for the wealthy, it also would not raise their taxes under the pretense of making them pay their fair share. Seaborn explains that because of his own high income, he pays 27 percent more in taxes than the average American, yet doesn’t get 27 percent better returns on the services those taxes pay for. He poignantly states that, “The top one percent of wage earners in this country pay for 22 percent of this country.” Although this was a fictional dialogue, it represents a view shared by those tired of being falsely accused of being greedy, and of being threatened with ever-increasing tax rates, simply because they work hard and earn high incomes.
Watch Sam Seaborn’s explanation here:
Perhaps even more disturbing than the Twitter backlash directed at Lowe because of his opinions on Sanders tax plan was the article featured by the liberal Salon. The article affirmed his right to express his political opinions, but attempted to diminish his ability to form his own opinions based on his personal political shifts and the simple fact that he is an actor. They posit that maybe Lowe is “just infinitely malleable,” to the point where he believes that playing a political figure on television gives him the insight to comment on today’s political affairs. I wonder if Salon would still be questioning his malleability were he praising Sanders’ tax plan, or whether they would heap praise on him for fitting the mold of the majority in Hollywood. Ben Shapiro, conservative commentator, remarked that “In Hollywood, if you say you’re a conservative, the translation is you’re a bad person.” As has been seen with Rob Lowe, whose center-spectrum beliefs are conservative by the entertainment industry’s standards, this is the case. Even philanthropic actions can be twisted into something negative by the public so long as they can somehow be connected to rightwing politics. Rob Lowe was recently called a racist by a Twitter user for tweeting nearly five years ago a message of thanks to Donald Trump for having donated to a Habitat for Humanity event benefitting Haiti, which Lowe was involved with. This was an act of charity and good will by both individuals, but because they are not liberals, it is responded to with hatred and divisiveness.
Stacey Dash, best known for her role as Dionne in the 1995 comedy film Clueless, emerged as a conservative in recent years and now contributes as a co-host on the Fox News program Outnumbered. In 2012, she sparked outrage with a tweet announcing her endorsement of Mitt Romney for the presidency. Evidently, many Twitter users couldn’t process how Dash, an African American woman, could support a white Republican male. They took to the Web to express their outrage, slamming her with expletive-filled, vitriolic rants. She was urged by some to kill herself and, by others, was called an “Uncle Tom” and “fake black,” essentially a traitor to the entire African American race.
Despite the backlash, Dash has refused to back away from voicing her conservative opinions. Most recently, she has been the criticized for remarks made calling for the elimination of African American audience-targeted entertainment channels such as BET, as well as awards shows such as the BET Awards and NAACP Image Awards. In light of the controversy surrounding the lack of diversity at the Oscar Awards, her remarks have been ridiculed by the mainstream media, prompting Dash to further explain why she sees these racially targeted programs as unnecessary and unfair. She called for the African American community to “make up [their] minds,” in regards to integration of all races into popular culture, and not perpetuate double standards by which people are rewarded on a racial basis. With “cultural appropriation” being a huge buzzword in media, and especially on Penn’s campus, her remarks raise important questions. At what point should African American culture simply become culture? Are we preventing that from happening, given our society’s tendency to put people in labelled boxes and make them stay there, but then become outraged and offended when the cultures of those labelled “other” aren’t integrated into the mainstream? She raised similar questions when she reiterated Morgan Freeman’s ideas about Black History Month, questioning why African American history is relegated to 28 days by forces in media and government who promote the celebration, when African American history is simply a part of American history itself. These are relevant questions to raise yet when conservatives raise them, the questions are twisted by the liberal media to be perceived as racist and non-inclusive. In a recent article in The Washington Post, Dash is accused of having neither the credentials, nor the knowledge about American history and the entertainment industry, to speak out about her feelings on the issue. If her views fit the typical narrative of leftwing Hollywood and media, would her opinions be more valid? Would her calls for African Americans to stop taking the “breadcrumbs” left for them by liberals who make them fit into a victim mold still be seen as racist and betraying her race? As a conservative, her views are publicly unpopular because she is willing to speak the truth about liberals’ real motives in how they treat the African American community.
While it is frustrating to see these individuals’ views spat upon so frequently by the same people slinging words like “tolerance,” it is also refreshing that some are willing to stand up for their beliefs. In our own lives, we can strive to be a little bit more like celebrities like Stacey Dash and Rob Lowe, and not allow ourselves to be silenced by a louder, more socially-embraced leftist culture.