Free speech for the infamous and inconspicuous alike

The 90th Annual Oscar Awards took place Sunday, full of political statements. This was not a surprise, as every award show in Hollywood for the last several years has featured speeches with some big-picture message. “Thanks, Mom!” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Politics are inescapable in this day and age, and celebrities are becoming more and more bold. Who could forget former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at the team’s games? His choice sparked discussion across the nation about police brutality against African-Americans, contributed to the Black Lives Matter movement, and royally pissed off President Trump along with viewers who just wanted to watch their football game.

Chris Evans, who plays Marvel’s Captain America, consistently uses his Twitter to make his own political statements. Fans were split when he got into a Twitter fight with Alt-Right leader David Duke in February 2017. Some were furious with the political statement from an actor, while others were thrilled that their dream Nazi-hating, real-life Captain America was showing his true red-white-and-blue colors.

American public figures are voicing their opinions and taking stances in public forums, and some citizens hate it. Something about this whole First Amendment rights situation is really getting under their skin. Tweets like that of Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis complain that “people are sick and tired of celebrities lecturing them on politics.” Naturally, there is a seven-minute video attached of this mid-level celebrity lecturing other celebrities on political lectures.

It is important to remember that these people, however much fame and fortune they may possess, are still people. They aren’t dancing monkeys that will entertain the crowd then disappear until the next gig; they aren’t meant to be seen but not heard. They are just as entitled to their free speech as anyone else you know. When, where, and how they exercise their right is not up to you.

Further, I would argue they have a responsibility to use their voice to spread awareness. The platforms on which they speak are astronomically larger than most citizens. Take, for example, the #MeToo movement that has garnered so much attention this awards season. It was started in 2006 by a woman named Tarana Burke but wasn’t nationally recognized until actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the message. Within a day, more than 40,000 people replied.

It takes more than one person to move a mountain, but it helps to have a giant moving things along.

I’m not saying you have to religiously follow every celebrity’s political thoughts if you want to be a true fan. I’m not even saying you have to care what they say. I am saying no one has a right to silence them or their activism or require that they make their politics known only in certain spaces.

These people are full of talent, and you are welcome to enjoy the entertainment they provide. But, if you don’t want to see politics, if you’d rather live in that blissfully ignorant bubble, then tune out. They have their rights to free expression; you have your rights not to listen. Use yours. Don’t take away theirs.

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