By Giselle Grassi
At the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, on January 29th, actors from around the world came together to celebrate and congratulate each other on their successes in film and prime time television at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. During this extremely political time, it seemed that most winners had more to say about President Trump’s new immigration ban rather than their own talents. But should today's celebrities be expounding their political views on live television?
President Donald Trump's new ban on immigration affects the seven countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The president explained that the ban was enforced to protect our country from the potential threat of domestic terrorist attacks. However, many actors and actresses were just as political as they were fashionable on such a prestigious night. Stunning actors and actresses like Meryl Streep, Ryan Gosling, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman and John Legend were keeping it sharp on the Red carpet. Others like Mahershala Ali, David K. Harbour, Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Denzel Washington and Kerry Washington felt the need to speak up for what they believe is right in terms of human activism in the political world.
Ashton Kutcher started off the show with a very heartfelt speech that briefly discussed his views on the refugee ban. His wife, actress Mila Kunis, expressed that she was extremely proud of her husband since she came to America from the Soviet-controlled Ukraine as a girl many years ago. His speech was short and sweet and it addressed the subject very well. That night, he started off with “Good-evening, fellow SAG-AFTRA members, and everyone at home, and everyone in airports that belong in my America…you are a part of the fabric of who we are. And we love you and we welcome you.”
Moonlight star Mahershala Ali continued the night with another political speech that underscored intense emotion to all watching the television. “What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people,” said Mr. Ali after playing the role of a young, gay black boy growing up in Miami. He then followed up with “They fold into themselves. And what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was, playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered and that he was O.K. and accept him and, uh — I hope that we do a better job of that.” Ali’s emotional words then earned him Time’s "Most Personal Speech."
The most iconic speech of the night was delivered by David K. Harbour, an actor in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things. Not only did his empowering speech set some to tears but it also earned its spot as Time’s “Most Impassioned Speech.”
After beating both "Game of Thrones" and “Downton Abbey," “Stranger Things” surprisingly took the win for the most Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble, and David K. Harbour was very prepared. To enforce his ideas of inclusiveness and politics, Harbour, along with his fellow cast members, strongly proclaimed, “As we act in the continuing narrative of “Stranger Things," we 1983 Midwesterners will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy what we have envisioned for ourselves and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility!” This speech, among others contributed to many headlines all around the country. As beautiful and uplifting as the speeches may be considered, should these big-time celebrities really be sharing their personal, political views in such a broadcasted setting?
Some actors like Mark Wahlberg, who stars in the upcoming movie Patriot’s Day, believes that no actors should speak politics publicly because they are no longer considered the ‘ordinary people’ of today's society. He believes that the people who are outside of L.A.’s little bubble of celebrities do not care what celebrities have to say regarding politics or much else because they are two very different kinds of people and are presumed to have nothing in common. According to Mark Wahlberg, this solidifies that the ‘ordinary people’ of today’s society are not influenced or impressed by the vivid views that are expounded throughout the media by celebrities. This is because the celebrities in shows and movies are not the ones putting “dinner on the table for families,” and they are not the ones helping the ‘ordinary people’ in the ‘real word’ in any way.
Contrasting these beliefs is Kerry Washington, who stars in the show "Scandal." She defended the rights of many Hollywood stars to express their own political views by saying, “A lot of people are saying right now that actors shouldn’t express their opinions when it comes to politics. But the truth is, actors are activists no matter what, because we embody the worth and humanity of all people.”
As the debate continues, there will always be those who believe that saying what they think is right in any given scenario, even on an award stage.