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 July 7

by Carolina

On television, politicians portray fictional characters. In this paper, I discuss the factors that have contributed to the blurring of the lines between politics and entertainment, how politicians imitate celebrities (and vice versa), what the celebrity era reveals about our culture, and the dangers that a celebrity culture faces. In the United States, we are living in the Age of Celebrity. In many ways, the modern era has seen significant changes, sometimes to the detriment of society as a whole. The news industry has become extremely competitive in recent years. Actors and actresses run for office and win. At a time when the press pays more attention to celebrities speaking out on complex policy issues than to experts with in-depth knowledge, there is a risk that politics will lose its substance, and serious deliberation and discourse will suffer. If politics becomes an entertainment show based on performance skills, society will lose its capacity for nuance, compromise, and serious deliberation. Artists, musicians, and athletes speak out about hunger, stem cell research, and foreign policy. Few sources provide better copy than actors, athletes, and entertainers, and few sources provide better copy than actors, athletes, and entertainers. In ways that glorify fame and fortune, the culture has changed. Actors, Athletes, and Astronauts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). 22xDavid Canon, Actors, Athletes, and Astronauts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). Because politics has become so expensive, those who can persuade others to donate money are in high demand. Rock stars help political parties raise funds. The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History (New York: Vintage, 1986). 11xLeo Braudy, The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History (New York: Vintage, 1986). While celebrities have run for office and spoken out on issues of public policy before, there are a number of factors in the current era that have heightened celebrity politics and given it a much greater prominence.

   

The Lines Between Politics and Entertainment are Being Blurred

   

Politics involving celebrities is not a new phenomenon. Many of our presidents, including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, and Ulysses S. Grant, were known for their military prowess, which propelled them to high office. Other historical figures included politicians from well-known families like the Roosevelts, Adams, and Harrisons. According to Stephen Hess, 700 families are responsible for “““““& 33xDarrell M. West and John Orman, Celebrity Politics (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 2003). Famous families and former military generals used their prominence as an asset to gain elective office in the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Blair Lee was the 21st member of his extended family to hold political office since 1647 when he was elected governor of Maryland in the 1970s. Six presidents (Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, John and John Quincy Adams, and William Henry and Benjamin Harrison) came from these three families.

Famous writers and non-politicians have spoken out on current events throughout American history. ’Mark Twain’

The Power and the Glitter: The Hollywood-Washington Connection (New York: Pantheon, 1990). 55xRonald Brownstein, The Power and the Glitter: The Hollywood-Washington Connection (New York: Pantheon, 1990). However, several trends in recent decades have contributed to a celebrity culture that is far more pronounced and politically significant than in previous epochs.

The news business has become extremely competitive as a result of the rise of new technologies such as cable television, talk radio, and the Internet, and it is now more likely to focus on gossip and prominent personalities. The lines between politics and entertainment have blurred as a result of fundamental media shifts. Access Hollywood, a popular tabloid show with millions of viewers, glorifies celebrities and provides a &ldquo&ldquo&ldquo&ldquo&ldquo&ldquo&ldquo&ldquo&ldquo&

Bruce Springsteen performed a series of concerts to raise funds to defeat President George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and other Hollywood celebrities such as Sean Penn, Mike Farrell, and Linda Ronstadt spoke out against the Iraq War. Candidates cannot run television ads or mobilize likely voters without a large sum of money. To ensure a large turnout at a fundraising event, comedians, singers, and other celebrities who can attract a large crowd have become popular. Politicians have turned into fundraising machines in order to fund television ads and voter turnout drives. With their strong backing in ““““& The rising costs of American elections have also aided the rise of celebrity politics. Politicians are forced to form alliances with athletes, actors, and artists who can headline fundraising events due to a lack of funds. Senators from large states must raise $5,000 per day, every day of their six-year term, to fund their re-election campaigns.

The blurring of the lines between politics and entertainment is a result of their intertwining. The old days, when entertainers and politicians lived in largely separate worlds, have been replaced by a system that brings members of both clubs into close contact on a regular basis.

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