michelle williams speech

Should Award Shows be Political?

Whether the remark was in jest or not, Ricky Gervais said it well in his Golden Globes monologue this year: Hollywood actors are “in no position to lecture the public about anything” since they “know nothing about the real world,” advising recipients not to use their awards “as a platform to make a political speech.”

Is he right? Do Hollywood stars really know nothing about the “real world” and those who inhabit it? I would have to concur. According to estimates by the Hollywood Reporter, A-list movie stars regularly make anywhere from $15 million to $20 million for lead roles in large-budget films.

While secondary leads make an entire order of magnitude less, $1.5 million to $4.5 million is nothing to scoff at. Even those not in the limelight might rake in $150,000 to $300,000 per movie, which pales in comparison to leads, but still vastly surpasses the United States mean and median income per capita in 2017: about $48,150 and $31,786, respectively.

Considering that it isn’t uncommon for actors to work on multiple movies a year—multiplying these already huge salaries—I would say it’s fair to assume many Hollywood actors will never experience financial plight, conventional careers, and typical living situations. That’s not to say that acting jobs aren’t difficult. Depending on the movies and roles played, they can be. Leonardo DiCaprio’s lead role in “The Revenant” comes to mind, for which he climbed into an animal carcass in subzero temperatures, among other hazards and discomforts. However, I hardly think the additional talents actors require and difficulty they endure (if any) should amount to 400-fold increases in pay from the national average, yet with these exorbitant salaries, they can afford to lead lives of hedonistic luxury and comfort the general populous can only hope to attain.

Yet, despite being so utterly detached from the day-to-day of most Americans, they cannot seem to abstain from putting in their unsolicited two cents regarding the most contentious issues while accepting accolades at the likes of the Golden Globes; the 2020 Globes were especially politically charged, with commentaries on hot button issues including climate change, the presidency and women’s rights. But coming from a cohort of people who by and large did not even finish high school and whose fame and fortune shields them being appreciably affected by politics whatsoever, political tirades from the A-listers are uncalled for at best and are patronizing, erroneous and downright annoying at worst.

For instance, Michelle Williams’ lecture about abortion was not only inappropriate in the context of a Hollywood awards ceremony, but was bereft of any coherency whatsoever: she posits, “as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice,” vaguely alluding to pregnancy. In actuality, it is, by and large, absolutely one’s choice to put him or herself in a situation that might lead to pregnancy, with the notable exception of rape. But Williams’ point falls apart when you consider that a meager 1% of women have abortions due to rape-related pregnancy, according to research from the Guttmacher Institute. The other 99? It was their “choice” to risk it. She implored women to vote “in [their] own self-interest” because “it is what men have been doing for years,” as if it’s possible that anyone in the United States, woman or man, deliberately votes against personal interests for some baffling reason. What her speech lacks in sense it makes up in political pandering, however.

This all boils down to a proverbial “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”: stars have the right to speak about just about anything they want on the Golden Globes stage and elsewhere, but no one asked for their opinion given their position in life, and frankly not many care.

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