In a Sunday ‘The New York Times’ column titled ‘Hollywood on Wall Street,’ former food critic Frank Bruni sounds off on the left-leaning celebrities who have expressed solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, either in person or via their Twitter feeds. Though he acknowledges that entertainers have as much right as anyone to join the protest, he argues that their involvement could undercut its already muddled message. “With a slowly growing number of actors and musicians paying well-chronicled visits to Zuccotti Park,” Bruni writes, “the movement is in danger of becoming a sticky fly strip for entertainers who like to flaunt their self-styled populism: a gadfly strip.”
Bruni’s column was presumably filed before Saturday night, when legendary folk singer Pete Seeger marched with demonstrators through the Upper West Side after a performance at Symphony Space. But while the 92-year-old Seeger, who was jailed and blacklisted during the McCarthy era for refusing to name names, unquestionably lends an air of legitimacy to the proceedings, the same can’t necessarily be said for Alec Baldwin or Susan Sarandon, whose ads for Capital One and Uniqlo, respectively, don’t quite chime with OWS’s anti-corporate message. (To Baldwin’s retort that he donates the proceeds from his Capital One endorsement to charity, Bruni writes, “he’s still promoting the company.”)
And then there were Kanye West, who politely tucked the majority of his gold jewelry into the front of his undershirt while touring the grounds, and Russell Simmons, who handed out $ 20 bills to the protesters while declaring, “I’m part of the 100%. If those people suffer, I suffer with them.”
Bruni rightly points out that all these entertainers are hopelessly intertwined with massive corporations, and that the wealth generated by the movies, TV shows, and albums they create flows disproportionately to overpaid C.E.O.’s and, by extension, the bankers who service them. But can’t you say the same thing about anyone who works in the private sector? The goal, if not for OWS then for most Americans, is not to establish ideological purity but to get more people involved in the national project of wealth creation — and to share the proceeds more fairly.
In the end, Bruni’s thinks OWS demonstrators ought to realize that celebrities need them more than they need celebrities. “Entertainers who raise its banner may get some self-promotion and ego inflation from the effort, but they do the protest questionable good. And protesters would be wise to keep all that glitters — including the gold chain that was on Kanye West’s neck — at arm’s length.”
But while Bruni certainly has a point, it’s also true that inclusiveness is one of the hallmarks of the Occupy movement: if you’re going to welcome the topless woman in blue body paint channeling Raven from ‘X-Men: First Class’ (and yes, I did see such a woman when I dropped by Zuccotti Park), you can’t very well tell Susan Sarandon to take a hike.
But here at Moviefone HQ, we want to know what you think. As movie lovers, do you support actors and other entertainers who want to make a political stand? Or do you wish they’d leave the activism to the folks who don’t have agents, publicists and endorsement deals?
Follow Moviefone on Twitter
Like Moviefone on Facebook