Celebrities react to Florida shooting: Is a tweet enough?


Protests break out in Puerto Rico as frustration grows

By Ariana Portalatin

Following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people, celebrities and other public figures took to social media to offered condolences and calls to actions for gun regulation. 

The flurry of tweets included reactions from Ellen Degeneres, Bette Midler, Gabrielle Union, Kim Kardashian West, Fifth Harmony, Chelsea Handler and Stephen King. 

The number of Twitter followers of this group of celebrities alone amounts to 159.38 million. The reach these celebrities command to spread their opinions is enormous. But once followers log out of their Twitters, what will they see from those that have an influence on how the world works?

Tweeting for change rather than staying silent and ignoring the issue altogether is great, but a 280-word tweet, no matter how many followers see it, will only go so far. Ultimately, it’s better to act on your views along with stating them online. 

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who attended the high school and has donated money to it through his charity foundation, tweeted his own sentiments but took it a step further by leaving the Cubs spring training camp in Mesa, Arizona, for Florida to be with his family and community. 

Unlike Rizzo and a few others, there are still many celebrities who do not practice what they preach. In a way, it’s a doubled-edged sword. Celebrities are often told they live in an elite world separate from the rest—so segregated that they can’t possibly understand the struggles of ordinary people, so they shouldn’t  even bother trying. However, the entertainment industry voicing political opinions is often rejected by audiences who wish the two would stay separate. Despite these opposing opinions, it is morally right to do what you can to create change. But it has to be more than verbal or written statements.

Not long after the June 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, actor Matt Damon told a reporter he wished Congress would ban guns the way Australia did in the 1990s. At the time, Damon was promoting his upcoming film “Jason Bourne,” which is advertised with a poster of Damon holding a gun. It’s almost hypocritical of Damon to advocate for fewer guns when many of his films feature guns and violence. 

Damon also said he wished the film would not get politicized, but the reality is that media is extremely influential and even his films can impact how audience members view violence. 

The U.S. easily has the most influential entertainment industries, yet depictions of guns on screen has more than tripled since 1985. Also, overall gun-use in film has risen approximately 51 percent in the last decade, according to a 2013 study by Ohio State University’s School of Communication. The study concluded that the increase in violence and weapons in film can increase aggression, particularly  in youth, and dubbed the result as “weapons effect.”

Hollywood represents just a small portion of the media, which also includes TV, music and social media. If celebrities want change, they cannot wait for others to do the work. It will take more than a simple tweet to spread a message of change. Any significant impact will take hard work, which can’t be accomplished just by individual posts. The combined work of everyone from all media is the only way to create the change we want to see in the world. It will also take following up on our words with action.