Cement Roots: Should celebrities back a candidate?

Country darling Carrie Underwood has publicly backed Target and Skechers, but she refused to support a presidential candidate.

On Nov. 4, while most of her fellow celebrities were out urging their fellow Americans to vote (“yes” for Obama, “no” for Proposition 8), pop-country starlet Carrie Underwood was singing a different tune.
“I lose all respect for celebrities when they back a candidate,” she said in an interview with TV Guide.

“It’s saying that the American public isn’t smart enough to make their own decisions. I would never want anybody to vote for anything or anybody just because I told them to. Music is where you go to get away from all the B.S. Whether it’s from politics or just the world around you, music should be an escape.”

It’s funny that someone like Underwood would preach such a message. After all, she wouldn’t have two hit albums and a couple of football players under her belt if it weren’t for good old-fashioned American democracy – in the form of American Idol, that is.

She certainly wasn’t sneering at her fellow Idol contestants as they mouthed “Vote!” and flashed peace signs at the camera, with Ryan Seacrest babbling about texts and 1-800 numbers and Coca-Cola all the while. She was doing the exact same thing.

Of course, maybe it’s a good thing Underwood kept quiet about who she voted for last week. I’m not one to jump to conclusions, but all evidence points to conservatism. The Muskogee, Okla., hometown. The song “Jesus, Take The Wheel.” The Baptist faith. The USO Christmas Tour in Iraq. Tony Romo. Even this shrugging and calling politics “B.S.” seems to convey a certain Carrie-the-country-singer, I-don’t-read-newspapers, I-want-a-President-I-can-drink-a-beer-with mentality. Sen. John McCain voter, for sure.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But the election was close enough, and I personally wouldn’t have liked to see any more of the youth vote go the McCain route – especially not because America’s sexiest female country singer told them to.

You see, that’s the thing. Love ’em or hate ’em, celebrities do have the power to influence. The image of Brad Pitt holding a notebook with a hand-drawn portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on the cover was a powerful one. Bruce Springsteen playing a free concert for Obama on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway certainly won the Democratic Party a few more Philadelphian votes. And Heidi Montag, though she may be little more than an annoyance on the MTV “reality” show The Hills, probably convinced a few fans to go Republican by waving her American flag for McCain.

This kind of influence isn’t just limited to politics, it’s everywhere. It’s the reason why nearly every major company has a celebrity spokesperson. Carrie Underwood? She’s appeared in commercials and print ad campaigns promoting Skechers sneakers, vitaminwater, Nintendo DS Lite, Hershey’s chocolate and Target.

So, is she saying the American public isn’t smart enough to decide where they want to shop, what they want to eat and how they want to entertain themselves? Going by her logic, yes. Then again, by her logic, the songs “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Imagine” and “What’s Going On” should never have been recorded because music is supposed to be an “escape” from the “B.S.” of politics and social strife. Somebody, quick, tell Bob Dylan.

Don’t get me wrong. Underwood seems like a sweet enough girl, and her music is actually pretty decent, though it isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. I just think her remarks last Tuesday were hypocritical and dangerous. Hypocritical because she’s more than willing to say “Buy your Carrie Underwood CDs at Target!” but won’t use that same, powerful Carrie Underwood name to encourage people to exercise their right to vote.

It’s dangerous because our country needs celebrities to start being more responsible. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing if people, especially young people, become more interested in politics after seeing P. Diddy in a “Vote Or Die” T-shirt or watching Sarah Silverman talk about “The Great Schlep” on YouTube.

Most aren’t going to base political opinions solely on what their celebrity idols think, but if it gets a few more people out to the polls or at least thinking about the issues, it’s A-OK in my book.

Besides, I’d rather hear Lindsay Lohan talk politics than see her flash her crotch any day.

Anna Hyclak can be reached at anna.hyclak@temple.edu.

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