Although social media labeled the 2017 MTV “Video Music Awards” as dull and more boring than previous years, politics and activism took center stage. Many celebrities took the opportunity at the Aug. 27 awards show to advocate for important causes.
This is nice and all, but it’s unclear how long this celebrity activism will last or if it’s just another half-hearted effort that is almost customary at award shows these days. How much activism will these celebrities continue once the lights go out and the audience is gone?
Host Katy Perry kicked off the night commenting on an outfit from the dysto- pian series “The Handmaid’s Tale” while discussing world affairs and holding up an imitation newspaper that read, “The World is on Fire.” Rapper Logic’s powerful performance called attention to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with his single “1-800-273-8255,” and musician P!nk shared an important message on beauty standards while accepting the Video Vanguard Award.
Another highlight of the night was Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, descendent of General Robert E. Lee, speaking against racism before introducing Charlottesville, Virginia, victim Heather Heyer’s mother, who presented the award for Best Fight Against the System after revealing the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will provide scholarships to students committed to social justice issues.
MTV recently rebranded that award, previously the Best Video with a Social Message Award, to reflect audience passion surrounding social justice issues. MTV also changed all award categories to be gender neutral, along with rebranding the awards as Moon Person trophies.
Celebrities using their platforms to speak out on such issues is necessary, but their activism shouldn’t end once the credits roll. Paris Jackson, actress and daughter of late musician Michael Jackson, said that night, “If we were to all put our voices together, do you realize the difference we would make?”
Jackson is right, but that is only possible if public figures consistently work for the public good instead of jumping on the activist bandwagon when the spotlight is on.
While many celebrities do great things to support causes close to their heart, some only show half-hearted support or temporarily advocate for sensationalized topics—and sometimes only to benefit their career.
Model and television personality Kendall Jenner was recently criticized for starring in a Pepsi advertisement that features a large protest, in which she becomes a hero by handing a police officer a can of the soda, and not speaking out against social injustices off camera.
Although musician Taylor Swift was praised for her assertiveness and victory in her recent groping trial, she has come under fire previously for staying silent on inequities, particularly on women’s rights. Swift was deemed a “fake feminist” by many for showing support for the January Women’s March but not directly participating. As a result, she has faced accusations that her feminism is self-serving.
Although the activism presented during the “VMAs” may have been culturally beneficial, it is important to note the causes discussed are not temporary issues. It is important celebrity activists make a thorough commitment to continue supporting important causes on all occasions. It is only when everyone is committed to standing against injustice that we may actually see a major difference.