Many are quick to trash Trump’s celebrity status, but it’s not the cult of celebrity that created his presidency.
Our culture is obsessed with celebrities. We idolise them and tear them down with equal effort. Some even cite Donald Trump as being the epitome of celebrity culture, but this is an attack that plays into establishment hands.
Celebrities were tradionally seen as those most privileged in society. It was a title reserved for those we got rare glimpses of and whose lives were a mystery. The rise of technology changed all of that. Over the decades, the term has widened to include reality TV stars, those who have huge YouTube audiences and singers, to name just a few groups. There’s been a sneering at this change. How dare Kim Kardashian turn around an act that was a total violation and actually make profit from it? YouTube stars are dismissed as talentless. There have even been concerned studies examining how many young people want to be famous as though that’s something we should particularly be concerned about.
Young people though seek fame because it gives them power. New routes such as reality TV and social media give working class young people opportunities and power they would simply never get otherwise – and if you don’t believe me, just look at how Parliament is still dominated by middle class white cisgender people. Being a celebrity doesn’t make a person inherently stupid. In fact, managing to build a career through social media shows a canny understanding of how the world works.
“Managing to build a career through social media shows a canny understanding of how the world works”
If Donald Trump represents the perils of being a celebrity then it is of the old guard. The celebrities who were rich and privileged by birth, and were granted opportunities due to their families. They were born into fame and power. Trump doesn’t represent a working class kid trying to get on. He epitomises the established elites of the world.
We have celebrities who society tells us to respect, but only up to a point. We’re supposed to care about their clothes but not their political opinions. There is an element of misogyny to this. So many who slam Trump as a lightweight celebrity would flock behind Tom Hanks or Mark Zuckerberg running for president.
Celebrities though have largely stood up to Trump. Hollywood is routinely criticised now for being political and not just sticking to films (ironic, when the films are often little more than white supremacist and straight insipid propaganda).
Celebrities can be more in touch with the world than many give them credit for. Think of the Senate, look to UK politics and ‘May-bot’ and you can see how stifled and out of touch so many politicians are. There’s nothing wrong with the fact Trump was on camera. He got there though by nepotism and notoriety in a society that rewards men for being as outrageous as possible and expects women to be silent. Trump’s presidency isn’t a product of the cult of celebrity but of how we uphold toxic masculinity.
Trump’s candidacy was supported because he called Mexicans. Trump won support because he bragged on tape of sexuality assaulting women. Trump became even more popular for his tirades of sexism against political women. It is toxic masculinity, bigotry and racism that helped propel Trump to power. It wasn’t the fault of the Kardashians. It was because the world still has not progressed enough.