It kicked off with the night’s first winner,Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who delivered a moving acceptance speech after winning the Best Actress Award in a Comedy Series for “Veep.”
“My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France,” she said. “I’m an American patriot. And I love this country, and because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish, and it is un-American.”
Louis-Dreyfus was followed by a tearful Mahershala Ali. The actor, who won the award for Best Supporting Actor in “Moonlight,” revealed the friction between him and his mother, an ordained minister, when he first converted to Islam.
“I’m a Muslim,” he said. “She didn’t do back flips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, we put things to the side. We love each other, the love has grown and that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”
For some fans, seeing their favorite high-profile celebrities make such public political displays is empowering, but on the flip side, Hollywood has been called out for having an elitist attitude
and alienating fans with opposing views.
Billy Mann, founder and chairman of Manncom, a talent management company that represents artists like Natasha Bedingfield, says that mainstream culture is coming out of an era where entertainers left politics at home.
“As the political climate is increasingly volatile, and as we are increasingly divided, this is really where artists have the opportunity to do their best work,“ he says.
Mann can personally relate to taking a political stance through music, co-writing “Dear Mr. President” with Pink in 2006. The song addressed to former President George W. Bush touched on topics like war, gay rights and education.
“There was a lot of controversy and pushback and radio stations here were reluctant to play it,” admits the two-time Grammy nominee. “But it did really well internationally. The internet creates a whole new access point for artists to reach people.”
No one can deny the power of the internet and how it’s changed the consumption of media across the board. Just as Trump uses Twitter to rally his supporters, entertainers share the same direct line to their own fans — sans corporate control.
But how about when big money is involved? If an actor gets political and loses the support of viewers with differing opinions, does that make them less appealing for projects?
Sharon Hall, president of Endemol Shine Studios, thinks it’s too early to say: “I haven’t been in production during the Trump era, so this is something that probably will be playing out over the next couple of months,” she notes. “But art is there to reverberate themes that are in society, so I don’t think it’s any surprise that people in the arts are politically minded one way or another.”
Hall, who headed development for the hit show “Breaking Bad,” also explains that in today’s entertainment landscape, since viewing habits are increasingly niche and customizable, political differences between performers and fans don’t matter as much as they used to.
“We’re not necessarily writing for one group of people,” she says.
So what about boycotts like the one Piers Morgan launched against Ewan McGregor? Losing a large chunk of an audience must be unappealing to investors in a film or TV project, right?
According to Hall, not necessarily:
“I don’t know how effective a call for a boycott is actually going to be. It may disqualify any extreme right-wing supporters from watching McGregor’s work, but it may also encourage people from the radical left to rally behind him.”
Entertainment attorney Steven Beer believes entertainers need to do what they believe in, as authenticity is what counts most: “This is a time when fans want to know where you stand and they want to understand what their artists, whether it’s a musician or an actor, what they believe in — whether or not they’re spiritually aligned. Audiences support authenticity.”
How do you feel about your favorite entertainers taking a political stance? Does it change whether or not you support their work? Tell us in the comments below.