©04 the media desk
Well it goes back even further than that, but John Wayne spouting off very conservative values, even while being dressed as the Easter Bunny on "Laugh In" has to be a benchmark in the discussion of celebrities being involved in political television.
John F Kennedy used his Hollywood connections to stump for him in 1960. But it seems that much before that the top level of national politicians thought any connection with 'entertainers' would make the politicians somehow dirty. Even WC Field's campaign for President in 1940 was taken with a nip of rye (versus a grain of salt), with his book "Fields for President" which was a rambling and wide ranging attack on almost everything he didn't like. The idea of an Actor running for high office was simply absurd.
Hollywood and Broadway knew their place. Appearing in a USO or War Bonds show was one thing. Actually becoming involved in a political campaign was something else all together.
Shades of 1947 and the Un-American Activities Committee may have kept some of them from becoming too involved in more than local politics in the LA area.
Of course this was before Kennedy used some of the Rat Pack to stump for him.
Of course this was before Nixon, learning well lessons taught by Kennedy in the 1960 election started schmoozing with certain ones of that crowd.
Before Reagan was elected Governor of California after making "Hellcats of the Navy" among other films.
Before Sony Bono and Clint Eastwood and Fred Grandy and others that have taken a TV or movie career and jumped to politics with some notable successes.
Now politics and popular entertainment cross paths more than either side would like to admit.
No "Fahrenheit 9/11" wasn't the first overtly political work from Hollywood. No it won't be the last.
While it has been almost commonplace for big screen movies to have political leanings since "Birth of a Nation" in 1915 and the classic "Citizen Kane", early TV either wasn't deemed a serious enough medium to carry a serious message about the serious subject of Politics beyond a Milton Berle-ish quip "Vote early and often".
Several TV shows have carried messages from the producers of the show. "M*A*S*H" degenerated from slapstick comedy to little more than an anti-war vehicle for its cast and crew near the end of its run. Political messages from both the actors and the producers basically doomed some TV shows like Ed Asner's "Lou Grant" and the preachy side of Jack Klugman in "Quincy M.E." In the case of "Lou Grant" the show was simply the loudest battle cry for the political activist Mary Tyler Moore became at the helm of MTM Productions. The audience left the show in droves as the plot driven shows from the first season in 1977 became nothing more than left leaning political diatribes prompting CBS to move it to 'Death Row' opposite Monday Night Football on ABC where it was never among the top 20 in weekly ratings. It was canceled at the end of the 81 - 82 season. Yet Ed Asner retains his prominence with the 'in' crowd in Hollywood although most people at home in front of their TVs couldn't name anything he's done professionally in years given his recent string of less than stellar roles in video games and 'B' productions.
John Wayne learned the hard way. If you take a political stand, you piss off a sizeable percentage of your public who likes you in movies, but disagrees with your politics, in his case, coming out as a Republican angered Democrats, basically half the movie-going audience. He took the lesson to heart and although nobody ever accused him of being a Liberal he didn't go out running his mouth much about politics much after the 68 and 72 campaigns when he spoke in favor of the Viet Nam war. At least he didn't around live microphones.
Sinatra was totally put off by the process of the 1960 campaign and felt, some would say rightly so, that Kennedy had used him.
Yet celebrities still haven't learned.
They are still spouting off for views so out of touch with the rest of the country some people wonder if they are all on drugs or something.
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" was on several Sci-Fi fans list of MUST SEE movies, that is until Jude Law came out and spouted some nonsense about the presidential race. All of the sudden those that were going to give him their hard earned money found another way to pass the weekend.
Bruce Springsteen is another one. His image of representing the working guy and having credibility in Middle America went down in flames with his ill conceived concert tour campaigning for John Kerry. A hand made sign in the back window of a pickup truck said it best- "Hey Bruce- Shut up and SING!"
Sinéad O'Connor shot her own career full of holes with totally asinine stunts and rants. To the point where she recently paid for a full page newspaper ad stating that she wasn't insane and wants to retire to private life to sing with monks. Well, to "ye all" that read parts of the poorly worded rambling piece, OK, she may not be technically insane, but questions still remain about her literacy.
Yes the celebrities and athletes and singers and magicians in America have the Right to voice their opinions about politics. And if they want to be stupid, like Rosie O'Donnell and promise to move out of the country if their chosen candidate doesn't win, so be it. They have that right.
And if WE THE PEOPLE chose to ignore them after the campaign is over and they start crying that they never actually meant they'd leave the country, so be it as well.
NOTE: As of yesterday Rosie still hasn't ordered any boxes and bubble wrap from the moving company. Four years after she made her statement.
[note: the Desk has never voted for a winning presidential candidate although it votes in every election. also the desk is registered as a 'independent conservative libertarian' thank you]