This week, several Far Right media outlets have reported that actor/comedian Rob Schneider had declared himself a Republican.
Yes, Schneider, the star of Big Stan, The Animal, The Hot Chick, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo, and Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo, has decided to endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly. Said Schneider, “The more I am with Tim, the more I like him.”
One of the news reports on Schneider’s shift in political perspective has provided a fairly extensive list of Hollywood “stars” who have become openly Conservative:
“Along with Ronald Reagan, there’s Clint Eastwood, Patricia Heaton, Morgan Brittany, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Angie Harmon, Bruce Willis, Heather Locklear, Shannon Dougherty, 50 Cent, Cheryl Ladd, Tom Selleck, and Allen Covert.
“And James Woods, Jon Voight, Jeff Foxworthy, Chuck Norris, Dennis Miller, Adam Baldwin, Kurt Russell, Nick Searcy, Kirk Cameron, Andy Garcia, Kelsey Grammer, Ron Silver, Ben Stein, Pat Boone, Mel Gibson, Adam Sandler, Scott Baio, and Kathy Ireland.
“And Shirley Temple, Dean Cain, Kevin Sorbo, Jessica Simpson, Jaclyn Smith, Gary Sinise, Dwight Schultz, Fred Grandy, Yakov Smirnoff, Drew Carey, Jamie Farr, Lou Ferrigno, Fess Parker, and Sylvester Stallone.
“And Hunter Tylo, Bruce Boxleitner, Eduardo Verastegui, Janine Turner, Heidi Montag, Arnold Schwarzenegger and more.”
There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the organization of the list.
Reagan and Schwarzenegger ran for office; Reagan will, of course, be remembered more for his turn as President than for any of his movie roles (despite the cinematic source of his enduring nickname, “the Gipper”), and Schwarzenegger will certainly be remembered more as the Terminator than for his run as the governor of California.
Eastwood, Stallone, Willis, Sinise, Woods, and Russell are all A-listers, I suppose, or at least former A-listers. In a couple of drunken rages, Gibson turned himself into a caricature of an A-lister. And most of the rest are either “stars” who were briefly in the celebrity spotlight, who never quite achieved major stardom, or who are clearly on the downside of their careers.
I am guessing that if one gave the list to 100 randomly selected people and asked them to identify one film or television show in which each starred, the results would provide a sobering perspective on the nature of celebrity in America.
At the risk of making an inappropriately harsh analogy, celebrity is to fame what a simple cough is to consumption.
I have developed an interdisciplinary Honors seminar called “The Culture of Celebrity,” which I have presented several times. The first time that I offered the course, I presented the students with a slideshow of 100 photos of celebrities and asked them to identify each one. I had scanned the photos from a ten-year-old edition of what used to be an annual book prepared by the editors of People magazine. Called The Book of People, it presented black-and-white photos and a one-page profile of the 200 biggest celebrities of the previous year. I went through the slideshow twice so that students would have a second opportunity to make the identifications in case particular names were on the proverbial “tip of their tongues.”
When I reviewed the results, I was shocked to discover that the largest number of correct identifications made by any of the twenty students in that Honors seminar was seven.
As the title character in Patton recounts, when Roman generals would return from their conquests and parade in triumph to the center of Rome, they would ride in much-festooned chariots, with slaves standing behind them who had been instructed to whisper repeatedly, “All fame is fleeting.”
If historical flame is fleeting, contemporary celebrity has the longevity of a housefly. Warhol’s axiom about everyone’s having their “fifteen minutes of fame” applies not just to people whose good or bad fortune, whose achievements or malevolence, places them momentarily in the spotlight of the national media, but to almost all of those who deliberately seek “stardom” and even seem for however long a period to achieve it.
So, in this context, I wonder how much value celebrity political endorsements have ever had, never mind now have. For I suspect that, like newspaper endorsements, their time is past or at least quickly passing.
Wikipedia provides seemingly thorough lists of those well-known individuals from the entertainment industry and many other walks of life who endorsed Barack Obama [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Barack_Obama_presidential_campaign_endorsements,_2012] and Mitt Romney [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mitt_Romney_presidential_campaign_endorsements,_2012] in 2012. There are separate lists of newspapers and organizations that endorsed each candidate.
Given the size of these lists, in combination with the general apathy of much of the electorate toward political news, one wonders how many votes were gained by either candidate because of any one of these endorsements.
But, perhaps I am just being cynical. Perhaps Deuce Bigelow has more reach among voters than I am giving him credit for having. I have to admit that the following dialogue is pretty powerful stuff:
Deuce Bigalow: I should have told you right from the start. But I was afraid.
Kate: Afraid of what?
Deuce Bigalow: Afraid that a girl as wonderful as you could never fall for a guy who cleans fish tanks, ’cause that’s who I really am. This whole gigolo thing was just a mistake. But I’m glad it happened ’cause I never would have met you. I never would have known what love was. I’m sorry. I’m not perfect.
Kate: I’m not perfect either.
Deuce Bigalow: Yes you are. You’re perfect in every way. I knew it the moment I met you.
[He pulls out a folded envelope and reads]
Deuce Bigalow: “Kate, you have a smile that could melt an iceberg. Your lips are as sweet as honey. You may only have one leg, but it’s the most beautiful leg in the world.”
Admittedly, it’s not Bedtime for Bonzo, but, then again, what is?