As the United States braces for a presidential election billed as perhaps the most important in history, celebrities have been quick to say who they think should lead the country.
Brad Pitt is the latest A-lister to throw his weight behind a candidate, recounting an advertisement calling Joe Biden “president for all Americans.”
Hollywood has strongly opposed Donald Trump, though he enjoys celebrity support in the form of Cheers actress Kirstie Alley and musician Kid Rock.
While the majority of players in the entertainment industry have shown disdain for Mr. Trump, that did not stop him from winning in 2016, raising the question of the real influence of the rich and famous on the elections.
Jeremy Corbyn received strong celebrity support in the 2019 general election, but Labor suffered its worst defeat since 1935.
Steven J Ross, professor of history at USC and author of Hollywood Left And Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics, told the PA News Agency that celebrity supporters can make a difference – but only for the good candidate.
A respected figure in the entertainment industry who supports a politician can grab vital attention during turbulent campaigns, although it won’t make much of a difference if the candidate fails, Professor Ross said.
He cites Hillary Clinton – who was backed by a formidable list of celebrities including Beyonce, Katy Perry and Robert De Niro – as an example of a candidate that no star power could have helped.
Ms. Clinton, who lost to Mr. Trump, “led the worst presidential campaign of my life,” said Professor Ross.
He said influential Hollywood studio boss Louis B Mayer was the first to realize the potential of celebrity backing in the 1920s.
And what the famous tycoon discovered almost 100 years ago is true today, according to Professor Ross.
“One of the things Mayer did was he understood what I would say would be the fundamental fact of the impact movie stars have on politics – they are eye-catchers on the politician,” he said. he declares.
“Mayer understood, and I think smart political agents understand today, the American public is not stupid. Just because a movie star says “I approve of candidate x” doesn’t automatically mean she will vote for her. “
He added: “What celebrities do is bring eyeballs to the candidate.”
Ahead of the 2020 election, it may appear that Hollywood, long considered a bastion of American liberalism, is throwing its collective weight behind Mr. Biden’s campaign to oust Mr. Trump from the White House.
But Professor Ross said it’s important to remember the second word of showbusiness.
“You have to understand that there are two Hollywoods,” he says. “There is a corporate Hollywood and a creative Hollywood.”
Thinking back to corporate giving to presidential elections since World War II, the business side of Hollywood “has always tried to play both ways,” giving money to Republicans and Democrats, Professor Ross said.
He added, “What people don’t understand, again, is that they see Hollywood as an art form. No, but it is above all a business. The studios are in a for-profit business, not an outreach business. “
While Professor Ross sees the potential for celebrity endorsement in political campaigns, he says the story contains a warning for Mr. Biden.
Anti-Vietnam War candidate George McGovern won the Democratic nomination in 1972 thanks to the support of stars such as Warren Beatty, Shirley MacLaine and Barbra Streisand – but suffered a crushing defeat to Republican Richard Nixon.
Professor Ross said: “Hollywood plays a huge role and yet McGovern gets killed in the general election. Hollywood’s involvement can therefore backfire. “