Politics were apparent, yet kept to a relative minimum during the Oscars. Sean Penn (having just returned from Iraq where he played the part of an incredibly wordy, confusing, narcissistic and, one assumes, slightly buzzed journalist for the SF Chronicle) mentioned WMDs. Billy Crystal jabbed at the Texas National Guard issue. Errol Morris warned of a repeat of the Vietnam experience. And Tim Robbins boldly came out against child and spousal abuse (just wait until the folks at the Baseball Hall of Fame get their hands on this hot potato).
No one should question the right of celebrities to voice their opinions. And certainly many a politician has used the power of celebrity to draw a larger crowd at a campaign stop (although occasionally even this level of support can get out of hand). But here’s a request to my celebrity friends. Don’t let yourself be used by the opposition. Don’t be tempted into appearing as a spokesperson on a particular election-related topic. That’s what they want you to do. Want to sing, tapdance or tell a few jokes to jazz up a stump speech? Fine. But here’s a warning. Conservatives are waiting for you with their mouths watering (and not just because of repressed fantasies or what I like to refer to as Britney-envy).
The folks over at Fox News are all too willing to position Janeane Garofalo as the voice of the Democrats while pitting her in a debate against Hannity, O’Reilly, Bill Bennett and a team of other seasoned, self-righteous, hypocritical, blowhards (a combination which, above all else, makes friggin’ great TV). I know it’s tempting for a celebrity to want to be in that position, to think that “Hmmm yes, a Jedi Pundit I am, yes, ready to take on Vader.” But you’re not. First of all, the political punditry game is not for novices at this point in the cycle. Second, you are being positioned and used by your debate opponents in a manner so effective that anything you do or say will only further dig the hole (obviously, Angelina Jolie in that Oscar dress is excepted from this argument). Their goal is to position this as a an election between George Bush and Dick Cheney on the one hand, and Janeane Garofalo and Al Franken (and let’s face it, Carson Kressley) on the other. Let John Kerry and the other Dems (along with, one hopes, a more aggressive Democratic team of pundits and analysts) play the hero in this scene. Believe me. This is one part you don’t want.