Movie Stars: Promoters of Ideoloy and Real Politics

The screen elite differs from other elites in its access to and use of political power.  Because of their nature of work (actual role-playing) and the immense media coverage of their lives, on and offscreen, movie stars have the potential of functioning as a strategic rather than segmental elite, to borrow Keller’s distinction.

Strategic Vs. Segmental Elite 

The influence of segmental elites is confined to the specialized domain in which they have expertise and in which they make their mark.  By contrast, the influence of movie stars can go beyond their specialized domain (the film industry) and beyond their work as filmmakers.

Movie stars may become influential members of a strategic elite through the transformation of their power within the film industry to other areas of social life, such as fashion, consumerism, and lifestyle.

Movie stars may/can function as role models whose influence is pervasive, particularly on the impressionable younger generation, the most frequent demographic groups of movie-goers in America.

Is it an accident that Ronald Reagan, former President of the United States, has moved to politics after being a Hollywood actor?  How widespread has been the trend of players to become actual office holders?  Clint Eastwood (as mayor) and Schwarzenegger (as governor) are more recent examples of stars who have put aside their screen careers in order to pursue actively full-time political careers.

They have been preceded by many others, including Shirley Temple, George Murphy, Irene Dunne, Paul Newman, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Unlike other elites, stars have participated in the political process quite extensively, directly as well as indirectly.  Focusing on the complex relationship between movie stars and the power elite, it will explore three issues:

The political importance of movie stars and their use by political elites in modern industrial societies;

The nature and extent of stars’ political participation in local, national, and international politics;

The use and abuse of acting for political goals: the choice of screen roles according to political yardsticks (by John Wayne, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford).  Some stars would only lay roles that are congruous with heir politics off screen.

The use of the Academy Awards (Oscar) Show as a global platform for propagating political causes (Marlon Brando, for American Indians, Vanessa Redgrave for the Palestinians).