The Celebrity-Fan Relationship

A strange event happened during the 2017 Oscar ceremony on Sunday evening (2-26), as a bus full of Hollywood tourists were allowed to briefly mingle with A-list celebrities, live on camera [1]. It was taken by most as a gag by host Jimmy Kimmel, but in all seriousness this spontaneity needs to happen more often– and from both sides.

The best actors/directors are artists who want to connect with their audiences, but are separated by an ultra-wealthy Hollywood milieu, which insists on idolizing & isolating its ‘stars,’ so they can be bought-off to serve as ruling class propaganda. The only way consistently better films will made, is when these artists reach into the working class and truly understand modern realities.

Why is this important? Because we now have a celebrity who became President of the United States. Donald Trump has been handed the keys to the White House by liberalism, and has installed fascists Stephen Bannon & Sean Spicer as his chief policy architect & spokesman. Joseph Goebbels was once quoted that when he heard the word “Art,” he always reached for his revolver. What this means is, there are no longer any US political institutions which will protect free speech or tolerate dissent from the working class. To these points, the push for fans & celebrities to reach a better mutual understanding becomes a critical task. The strength of the working class (which produces everything), needs a voice; and the best revolutionary possibility is from athletes/celebrities connecting with their fans. In turn, celebrities need their fans, and if they don’t unite with them, there won’t be any culture in the future to discuss.

A special subset in the discussion of celebrities, are professional athletes. This is because athletes (unlike Hollywood actors) often come from poverty, and most of the rest from middle-class means. When athletes become high-profile & well-paid professionals, they often reach back into their communities of origin.

With that said, most professional athletes today need to listen better, and step outside themselves more. That can be difficult for a young man/woman who suddenly is thrown into the celebrity spotlight, with ‘instant’ money & fame. They’re often told they’re now too cool for their old friends (by industry flatterers), and that they can do whatever they want– because they deserve it. They usually do so for awhile, only because it’s natural at that young age. The problem comes when spending (or whatever other addictive habit) gets out-of-control, and the career crisis hits; and there’s no back-up plan.

One easy (low cost) athletic retirement plan, is to be gracious & nice to the fans during your career. They will always love you for that, and find ways to take care of you. It’s the ‘star jerks’ who suffer most in retirement, because no one needs their used-up talent anymore. There’s a saying in Show Business that goes, “Be nice to people on the way up, because you’ll be seeing them on the way down.” The very best athletes understand that sports are an entertainment business, and are prepared for this. The way to maximize marketability during & after a sports career, is to: 1) win; and 2) be as attractive & pleasant as possible. I’m not sure in which order, but that’s what people want to watch and that’s what sells product.

Getting back to the athlete-fan relationship, with a ‘star’ career under control an athlete wields enormous clout. This power can be used to pile-up ever more money, but also it can be used to create real relationships with fans, who are part of the society we all live in. This happens when athletes and their fans make an honest attempt to better understand one another.

That’s why I’m a huge fan of the Players Tribune, launched‎ ‎October 1, 2014. This is an online venue for athletes only, to speak their minds. It is long overdue, as for too long ESPN & mass-media outlets have had 100% control over every sports narrative. I’ve been told the Internet has changed everything, and here it is again; with athletes finally representing themselves. Honestly, I don’t ever need to hear from Stephen A Smith, Buster Olney, Mike Lupica… and the rest– ever again. They don’t have anything positive or intelligent to say, so why bother with them?

The deeper issue here is: what’s causing all this hate? In the final analysis, it is the class separation between athletes/celebrities and their fans that is fueling this anger. It is erupting on the social media feeds of every celebrity, no matter how popular, every day. Why? It is because valid & rational concerns aren’t being listened to by their political representatives, and therefore celebrities often become the surrogate recipient of these frustrations. This is because high-profile athletes/celebrities have a level of wealth & access to power, which working people can only dream of. Sports, like money & politics, are very emotional subjects.

Celebrities are also widely seen by the public as the source of the problem, or at least strongly associated with it. The celebrity-fan relationship is not the same as the voter-politician relationship. Politicians really don’t care whether they’re liked, they just want votes when it counts, and most people today understand that. If they have an image problem, they usually prefer to throw money at it. The notable exception is Donald Trump, who prefers Twitter, which only proves he considers himself a celebrity first.

Celebrities NEED their popularity, and it has to come from them, because that’s all being a celebrity is. This hooks artists, athletes & entertainment professionals who achieve star-level status. They become ‘married’ to their fans, in a way that if the fans leave (divorce), their careers’ are often finished. This makes them more accountable to working people who vote, and it is actually a qualitative difference in terms of revolutionary potential.

Wrapping all this up where we began (at the Oscars), film goers can aid this revolutionary process by rejecting Hollywood trash (and the rest), with their criticisms & wallets. The truth is, famous artists (along with athletes & other celebrities) care intensely about their fans, and are subject to their influence– especially via social media. There are many serious artists who desire to make better films, but have been locked into commercialization. The problem is, these artists too often view their fans as some vague entity, and not enough as individuals with intelligent human concerns.

This is where Marxist art criticism plays a crucial role in revolutionary strategy. Building a foundation with more fan-celebrity interaction, provides the building blocks for a socialist cinema of the future. It will be one that represents the world more fairly, and lets artists express their creativity more freely. This is an all-important battleground, as control of the mass media (in the end) will be of decisive revolutionary importance.

As far as what socialism will mean politically, it means we tell everybody everything.  No more secrets & lies.  No more war & inequality. Criminals are humanely punished, and rehabilitated– if possible.  Everybody gets a home, food, education, medical, a career, retirement, etc… as the resources are now in place, they just don’t get fairly distributed under capitalism.  Celebrities & their fans everywhere would easily adapt to all this, but it requires leadership & action. The question becomes, who wants to lead?