How Celebrities Turn Fan Bases into Voter Bases

Author: Joshua Mason
Created: 07 December, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
3 min read


We understand the basic connection between acting and the political skill of talking in public, but this doesn't explain the trend of actors successfully being voted in office and appealing to people over a politician with years of experience. Can an actor really be an effective politician? Does voting them in show the fundamental disconnect between people and governance? 

Actors have held the biggest offices in the world. Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States after a career on the big and small screen. He is deemed as one of the few successful examples of actor-politicians (subjective!).

Reagan, however, had a more conventional route into the political sphere than most. His interest in politics came about after being president of the Screen Actor's Guild, a union where he had to fight labour disputes. This led to him becoming governor of California and then president. This more believable route to the Oval Office is not something even his biggest admirers copied.

Arnold Schwarzenegger helped campaign for Ronald Reagan in 1985 and obviously saw something he liked. He followed him into politics and eventually the governor's seat in California.

From start to finish it was the most SoCal election of all time. Arnie announced his candidacy on the Jay Leno show, campaigned in his Humvee, and ran against a porn star and the owner of the Huffington Post! Despite the fun had with puns during his tenure, in 2003 it was mired by allegations of sexual assault and corruption.

Arnie was not the only Californian actor politician at this time either, Clint Eastwood was mayor of Carmel for two years and helped the Terminator on environmental issues in Orange Country. How were these hard men of Hollywood able to convince the masses to vote for them?

Actors are blessed with an unfair advantage over their political opponents. Getting the public interested in politics is hard enough without having to get them to remember names. Actors have instant brand name recognition and this ability to put a face and personality to a name will win them votes just for being on the ballot.

Most if not all have come from humble origins to reach their Celebrity (Trump aside!). This paints a picture of progress to the voter and of getting things done, despite all of it based in another field. There is also a fundamental difficulty for society to remove an actor from his fictional personas.

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Eastwood and Schwarzenegger both have played famously heroic, patriotic roles that ignite the imagination of the voters. Despite none of it being based in reality, a gun-toting man who get things done is what society will see in Arnie, even if it has no basis in reality.

One of the worst places for this disconnect is India. Its Bollywood industry far outlays Hollywood in reach and money and the political actors benefit. Many exploit their roles as Hindu gods or goddesses to create a myth-like fanatic fan base that worships them. Of course, in this case it should be called a voter base.

Modern politics also plays into the hands of actors. Twenty-four hour news and constant media attention has moved the judgment of capability away from governing and results to a skill for always looking good, saying the right thing, and getting people to warm to them -- all vital parts of an actor's repertoire.

Charismatic leaders are also appealing more and more to a generation of people who struggle to understand what politics requires, putting more emphasis on talking to TV screens than the actual heavily bureaucratic nature of political reality.

Actors, and indeed entertainers in Trump's case, will be continuing to exploit the situation as long as it goes on. Modern politics is being run like a media spectacle and actors will thrive playing a new part in keeping people happy. They probably hide what is really going on in the background.

The saddest part of actors in power, is that they have none, leaving those who are really making decisions unaccountable.

Photo Credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

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