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Why We Want Our Female Celebrities to Just Stand There and Look Pretty, with their Damned Mouths Shut

By Erin Elizabeth Kurtz


Dixie Chicks made the cover, for daring to be "uppity" but is EW celebrating them here, exploiting them, or just riding their sacrificial wave to the bank?

In March 2003, Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, told a captive London audience that she and her fellow band mates were ashamed to be from the same state as President George W. Bush.  What followed was a firestorm of controversy.  The darlings of the country music scene (they were able to crossover to pop stardom yet still keep their country dirt road cred) were suddenly being boycotted from radio stations.  Those same radio stations spent countless hours reviling the Dixie Chicks instead of playing any sort of music, in itself a sort of victory.  The Dixie Chicks became the new vanguard of free speech, posing nude on the cover of Rolling Stone and talking to Diane Sawyer.  Despite the damage control, the trio had to deal with protesters outside their concerts on the American leg of their world tour.  These protesters were not necessarily former Dixie Chicks fans, their album sales stayed consistent throughout the whole mess, but conservatives that support President Bush.  (My conservative republican cousin to this day holds the Dixie Chicks in the same camp as communists and the French.)


        In August 2003, (at the end of the Dixie Chicks firestorm) Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he was going to run for governor of California.  This announcement was met with applause.  In fact, the only people who were angered by his entrance in the gubernatorial race were California Democrats who were probably opposed to the re-call in the first place.  (I should know I was one of them.)  Arnold’s politicizing of himself was welcomed with open arms, but he belonged to the same party as President Bush who had a very high approval rating.  (Also of interest to people on the celebrity-politico front was Barbara Streisand misspelling “Gephardt” in an email.)  Fast forward, a year later and Ben Affleck is campaigning hard for John Kerry.  During the Democratic National Convention, B. Fleck (as he is lovingly called) made the rounds on all the morning news programs as well as a good number of evening ones.  Despite the few quips about Ben wanting to get a date with one of Senator John Kerry’s daughters, few made a big deal about Ben strutting his politics around our airwaves. 


            So what did the American public care about during this time?  We heard all about Linda Ronstadt receiving jeers from crowd as well as a pink slip from the Aladdin hotel for dedicating a song, The Eagles’ Desperado, to Michael Moore (everyone’s favorite liberal propagandist).  Linda just kept on singing to Michael Moore and good portions of her audience kept on leaving.  Similarly, Whoopi Goldberg received her walking papers from Weight Watchers for making jokes about President Bush at a Democratic fundraiser.  A week later Margaret Cho was dropped from yet another Democratic fundraiser for fear, she would make a similar display.  (If people cannot make jokes about President Bush at a Democratic fundraiser then where exactly should we make them? Apparently, on all the late night shows with male hosts.) 


        Most people will claim that they do not care what celebrities have to say about politics, but they lie.  Celebrities don't just entertain us, they are the standard by which we measure ourselves, and in learning of their scandalous love lives, seeing looking bad without makeup on, and wearing cool clothes that we can buy, we worship and condemn accordingly.  With this increased involvement their personal lives, their opinions on matters of state are not far behind.  Celebrities have been put up on the pedestal and as the cliché goes, what goes up must come down.  We need a scapegoat and our female celebrities seem to be the perfect for the job.  The American media has long taken delight in the destruction of the heroes it helped build, but this modern day witch-hunt has been especially heinous.  The political climate has some bearing on the situation.  In what has become the most polarized election in recent memory it certainly sells more papers to pit one side against the other.  Is it necessary to pit the entirety of the conservative right against pop singers or a comedian?  The feud created between Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff is equally annoying (and reminiscent of high school) but at least those two are on equal footing.   Johnny Depp did not have to go on a news magazine to defend what some viewed as a particularly harsh critique of the Bush Administration.  In addition, while the controversy surrounding their opinions still follows the Dixie Chicks around no matter what they do, Johnny Depp is still smarting from an Oscar nomination and some wins at the MTV Movie Awards without a mention of his verbal gaffe.


This does not stop at those speaking out against President Bush; much has been made of Britney Spears cameo in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, in which she states (in between gum smacks) that American should trust the President.  Why did Michael Moore choose Britney Spears to represent the blind following of President Bush without question?  Was the half of the population that thinks President Bush is doing a good job busy that day?  Michael Moore could have talked to Toby Keith.  He did after all write that great patriotic ballad Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue. (In the song, he says something along the lines of shoving a boot up a terrorist’s ass, so obviously the man has extensive knowledge of world affairs.)  Michael Moore played on and re-enforced the idea that blonde women are stupid.  (I say blond women seeing as how I have never heard a blond joke where the pronoun “he” is used.) 


            It would seem that despite all the advancements women have made, the old stereotypes are still prevalent or at least entertaining.  Media outlets will always run the story that is going to make money and they will drag the story out if that means they are going to make more money.  If the public does not buy into the story then the story is no longer news.  Simply put Johnny Depp and Ben Affleck do not fit into what the American public thinks of when they think those we want to string up.  It is still taboo when a women speaks her mind as opposed to a man.  What we need is not  more high profile women to speak their minds, instead the public needs to change its perceptions of all  women who openly express themselves.  To quote First Lady hopeful, Teresa Heinz Kerry, “My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called ‘opinionated,’ is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. And my only hope is that, one day soon, women — who have all earned their right to their opinions — instead of being called opinionated, will be called smart and well-informed, just like men.”


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