Chapter 4: Convincing Discourses

4.2.3 Celebrity political action (prospectus)

Thomas Lundin

English 102, October 2020

For my research essay I am continuing the idea of following political action and the discourse and language developed around it like I have done in past essays when talking about the protest of athletes. This essay I am focusing on a more wholistic view when It comes to celebrities. I will examine how stardom and fame has contributed to celebrities’ platforms and their ability to partake in political action. With the idea of political action and the discourse around it being so large, I am planning to focus on ways that this action has been created.  

My research essay will look at the unique way all types of celebrities have taken political action. The most common being political statements made at events or protesting but there are many other ways that this is achieved. Some people fight to enact change in certain subjects. For example, Kim Kardashian is fighting for criminal justice reform and has aided in freeing some people who were wrongfully convicted. She is now becoming a lawyer to help even more. Another actor who has done similar work is Ashton Kutcher who has testified in front of congress to help end child trafficking. Another being Marisol Nichols who is also fighting to end child-sex trafficking but in a different way from Kutcher. Those are just some ways that celebrities have created a political platform around their fame.  

This type of information is especially important to professionals in the political sciences. People who participate in political campaigns or are political lobbyist would find the information in this essay useful. This is because they could use the aid of celebrities to expand their platform or help their candidate by supporting an issue that the celebrity is fighting for. This information and discourse are important to political science because with the development of social media it has become more important for political candidates to be active on social media. Celebrities being social lights have immense followings on social media and are successful when it comes to reaching people with items like political action. This same thing can be achieved by political candidates and has been. For example, a house of representative’s member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a major social light and celebrity in everyday life. She has achieved the same ability the most celebrities have when it comes to taking political action. This is extremely important for political candidates to create a following and help people to get behind a cause. In my final essay I will talk about how celebrity activism and politics is not only setting the agenda but also shifting the ideals that are set forth by traditional politics. Political strategist and political candidates will have to evolve to fit the persona around celebrity activism and stardom like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 

Today Celebrities can achieve so much based on their platforms and political action is a new and growing item that famous people are looking at and focusing on when it comes to taking a stance and supporting something, they believe in. The main questions that I have produced that will aid in my research and thought process when it comes to this essay are: “Do celebrities have a different way to seek political action that is different from elected officials?” “Do celebrities have certain steps that are similar across the board when making a political statement?” and “Does their efforts make a difference?” These are just a few broader questions that I am thinking about answering in my essay. My main goal is to look at all these different situations that celebrities have decided to fight for and see how they are similar and different from case to case. Doing that will allow me to see a more scope of how this language and discourse is set up by these people.  

I have a variety of sources. They all look at either different events that a celebrity has been part of celebrity politics or activism or gives a basic idea of what celebrity activism is. From the sources I have found I am planning to go general to specific for my essay because I want to start with a basic overview of celebrity politics and how it is changing how politicians’ campaign. By doing this I can show that there is a literacy that is developed around celebrity activism. I am planning on starting with information from “Can Celebrities Set the Agenda,” “What Is Donald Trump? Forms of ‘Celebrity’ in Politics” and “Celebrity, Politics, and New Media: An Essay on the Implications of Pandemic Fame and Persona”. All these sources show the either the development of celebrity politics or activism is affecting traditional politics. Form a new “politician” Donald Trump to the idea of the celebrities controlling what is important social issues are at the time. Then I am planning to go into a little bit more specific cases of this happening. First, I will start with the Taylor Swift in 2018 who caused a huge spike in voter registration after a post on Instagram. This part will allow people to see the full effect celebrities can cause on politics. Then I plan to go into three different Actors or celebrities that have cause much change in their respected place of activism and what they are continuing to do. I will start with Kim Kardashian and discuss how she is fighting for Criminal Justice Reform and how she is able to do that based on her platform. Then I will go into Ashton Kutcher who started a foundation and software system that aids in ending child-trafficking. Finally, I will talk about Marisol Nichols who is an actor that is also working on ending child trafficking but in a unique way. She went undercover with local law enforcement in California to expose predators online. She is now making a documentary series out of her overall experience with law enforcement and being undercover. By examining these specific characters, I will be able to show and describe how much celebrity activism has shifted the ideas of traditional politics and how impactful and sort of language that has been developed around these issues.  

That being my basic outline. I still have some other articles that I will need to use that will be useful in expressing the ideas and the language that is developed in the stories and just help get my point across more and how much of an impact a celebrity can make. One of my sources is also a primary source off Instagram so I may do a rhetorical analysis of the post and include it in the essay with the part on Taylor Swift because It is her post on Instagram in 2018. 

Overall, my topic is interesting and has a lot of different pieces that I can address throughout the essay to reach my point. Though I do think that the main struggle that I will encounter is the right way to set it up and pulling only the most valuable information and stories, so it does not get too crowded and hard to follow. I think that in my research essay I will have to really think through the information I am pulling from the articles to express this discourse.  

Annotated Bibliography

Boykoff, Jules, and Ben Carrington. “Sporting Dissent: Colin Kaepernick, NFL Activism, and Media Framing Contests.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport, vol. 55, no. 7, Nov. 2020, pp. 829–849, doi:10.1177/1012690219861594. 

 The NFL has seen an increasing number in athlete protest over the years, but Colin Kaepernick was the main athlete that got the most attention when he sat and kneeled for the national anthem. He was speaking out against police brutality. The article then goes into discussing how the media portrayed the protest and then if Kaepernick made an impact on the discussion of police brutality. They look at the Five major newspaper companies and found that with the protest from Kaepernick the number of articles and discussion increased at both times at the beginning of the NFL season and then taper off. This is due to the increase discussion at the time with the initial protest in Sept 2016 and then the next season and what might happen. The article lastly looked at the scope of most of the articles posted and then main to frames were a patriot or a traitor which is supporting the protest and against it. Overall, from this article you can see that Colin Kaepernick did make a significant impact when it comes to the discussion of police brutality or at least placed it in the front view of the public.  

Hayat, Tsahi, et al. “Can Celebrity Athletes Burst the Echo Chamber Bubble? The Case of LeBron James and Lady Gaga.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport, vol. 55, no. 7, Nov. 2020, pp. 900–914, doi:10.1177/1012690219855913. 

In this article then explain how athletes might be a way to help democracy and keep the country connected. An athlete like LeBron James who is openly liberal and has posed liberal things on his twitter, while having conservative followers. The articles say that a healthy democracy is that there is a struggle that with political polarization a society gets more independent and differing on views. This division can be seen in the development of technology because the article did some research and found that the idea the with the internet people usually stay on the side that they best support causing the connection between everyone not to be as important. They make the connection that celebrities might be the key to create a better democracy by showing people each side of the story and shows the idea that celebrities have an influence over people who do not know. 

Marshall, P.D. Celebrity, Politics, and New Media: An Essay on the Implications of Pandemic Fame and Persona. Int J Polit Cult Soc 33, 89–104 (2020). 

In this article the author discussed the idea of celebrity fame as a pandemic in a sort when it comes to politics. They start by defining the two traditional views of politicians and celebrities where one if focused on the development and maintenance of a society through political action and ideology. They celebrities are there for the idea of entertainment. Though this author thinks that with the development of social media that the ideas of celebrities can be more widespread, and they can express opinions. The author expresses that this is mutating the traditional capacity of politics. The article goes farther into their analysis that celebrity identifies the embodiment of political power. With the continuing development of social media and the rise of quick communication the articles states that the current political system is a hard to understand and that politicians and politics will have to mutate because there is a disconnect between the political institutions and the people. The article shows with the development of celebrities and their move towards more opinions on political issues the system of politics will have to shift to fit a more easily understood system that can relate to the people.  

Nownes, Anthony J. “Can Celebrities Set the Agenda?” Political Research Quarterly, Aug. 2019, doi:10.1177/1065912919869530. 

This article is a research experiment. The idea of a public agenda is elusive, and researchers do not exactly know why some things can become a public issue and on the political agenda while others do not. Though they note that the celebrity activism may cause a change in the ideals of people and they set the agenda for what the public wants to get done. He continues where he does an experiment to test how celebrity activism can affect people opinions and see if a celebrity can increase the likelihood of it being a hot topic issue. In conclusion after comparing how the media, normal and celebrity effect a person idea of what are the big issues. He finds that celebrities have the highest influence on what becomes a hot topic issue. He shows that celebrities do have the power to set the agenda and celebrity activism will change the agenda after becoming active in a certain issue.  

Rees, Alex. “Kim Kardashian Interview: ‘Justice Project’ & Prison Reform.” Time, Time, 4 Apr. 2020,  

This article examines Kim Kardashian West and her political activism when it comes to the Justice Project and Prison reform. She got into this fight just like many other people do by seeing something on social media about a woman who was serving life in prison for a crime that did not fit the punishment. She had to do something. Kim contacted the lawyers and spread the word about the case. She got all the way to the white house where the woman who started her activism sentence would be commuted. Though that did not stop there she continues to aid the best way she can. She is not looking for recognition and does not have to lead anything, but she is there to aid the Justice Project when she is needed and stays away when she is not. Though she mostly focuses on single cases she was able to achieve a bigger step in the right direction when it comes to prison reform. She helped lobby for the First Step Act which aimed to reduce recidivism in people released from prison and improve related services in and out. Kim’s main goal when it comes to all this is to get the world to see the prisoners as people and her that they can have a second chance and deserve one. She thinks that the prison system needs to be reformed and is fighting to get it done. 

Roy, Sushmita. “Ashton Kutcher Is Fighting Online Child Sexual Abuse With Backing From a $280 Million Fund.” Global Citizen, Global Citizen, 17 Apr. 2019, 

This article examines the activism found in the company Thorn and their recent aid they have received to continue their fight to end child sexual abuse. Thorn is a nonprofit founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to help stop child sexual abuse material on the internet. With the expansion of the internet, this human crime has only expanded. Thorn hopes to help flag and eliminate this type of material online. The article talks about how the added funds that Thorn just received they plan to use to expand their platform and web-based tool that identifies the material. This tool is used by law enforcement in every state and parts of Canada, but they hope to expand in the future. Thorn was founded in 2012 after Kutcher and Moore saw a documentary on the topic. They later learned that human trafficking is the fastest growing crime and in 2014, 28% of the victims were children. Kutcher has been successfully creating a movement to fight child sexual abuse and trafficking and the platform he created allowed him to have the opportunity to testify to Congress about combating this modern slavery in 2017. With Kutcher’s activism Spotlight and soon Safer are helping to cut down human trafficking and abuse. The article even states that according to Thorn’s survey, the spotlight has made identifying victims faster and has helped identify 31,197 victims (9,380 being children) and 10,496 traffickers. Ashton has created a huge platform with the help of his fame and is now making an impact on the rest of the world with his continuing political activism. 

Snapes, Laura. “Spike in Voter Registrations after Taylor Swift pro-Democrat Instagram Post.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Oct. 2018, 

Taylor Swift had not been a very vocal person when it came to politics. As an artist, she focused more on her music rather than her opinions. Though in 2018 prior to the mid-term election to took to Instagram to talk politics. Taylor is from the state of Tennessee and that is where she was voting. She through her support to the democratic candidate and gave the reason for doing so. The main reasons were the track record of the incumbent and the ideals she stood for as a person. Now Taylor Swift has a wide outreach throughout the country with 112 million Instagram followers at the time people across the nation saw her message and felt inspired. She not only talked about who she was voting for, but she also just wanted people to vote and educate themselves on who they were voting for. In the following 24 hours after the post was made had 65,000 registrations. In the state of Tennessee alone there were 2,144 people who registered.  The article shows the true outreach that an artist like Taylor swift can achieve. She did not care who a person voted for she just wanted people to vote. 

Steele, Sarah L., and Tyler Shores. “More than Just a Famous Face: Exploring the Rise of the Celebrity Expert-Advocate through Anti-Trafficking Action by the Demi and Ashton Foundation.” Crime, Media, Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, Dec. 2014, pp. 259–272, doi:10.1177/1741659014558434 

This article is older being written in 2014 is talks about the increasing number of celebrity activism. This type of advocacy Is a more recent ideology that has been growing the celebrity community with more people trying to use their fame to enact change. The article then goes into framing how state is evolving from this newfound activism. The main thing they examine with that is that with the rise of celebrity activism the state is now not the sole repository. The article then talks about the celebrities like Ashton Kutcher who has been doing a lot to help end child trafficking. They have launched multiple campaigns and have a growing foundation to help end child-trafficking in the US and across the world.  

Street, John. “What Is Donald Trump? Forms of ‘Celebrity’ in Celebrity Politics.” Political Studies Review, vol. 17, no. 1, Feb. 2019, pp. 3–13, doi:10.1177/1478929918772995 

This article discusses the idea of Donald Trump and celebrity politics. They use Donald Trump because he is constantly saying he is not a politician and the idea of his persona revolves around celebrity politics. Though the definition of celebrity politics is a struggle because there is no clear answer to what makes a person a celebrity politician. In this article they try to produce a common idea that can explain what makes a celebrity politician. These celebrity politicians that merely performing a show or acting in some way that conveys their message and creates the attention around it. They do not focus on the political aspect there is more coverage in the show. This is due to the media coverage around it, the style that the message is delivered and the reactions from the audience. The idea of this celebrity politician can similarly be seen in the idea of celebrity activism. Now on a smaller scale than a full-on politician these actors and social lights use their style and acting to convey a message while merely playing a role on stage in a sense. This way of conducting celebrity activism and being a celebrity politician all spurs from the idea of celebrities acting out their politics. They use their persona as a rock star or reality start to garner attention and put a style on their politics. Using this article is could show that this way of acting is why celebrities are much more successful when calling for political change because they use their public persona to bring an art to their political message.  

Swift, Taylor. “I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterms elections on November 6th.” Instagram, 7 Oct. 2018,   

Taylor Swift took to Instagram to talk about the midterm election. This was new behavior because she had not expressed much of her political views prior to this moment. Though with her massive following was able to encourage many people to register to vote for the first time. She talked about who she was going to vote for in the coming election in Tennessee and then went on to express to her followers to not only vote but also be educated upon voting. She expressed the importance of whatever your views that you support the person for what they stand for and know what they stand for. She did not care who her follower supported. Swift wanted as many people to do their civic duty as a United States citizen as possible. 

Weiner, Yitzi. “The Incredible Backstory of Marisol Nichols, Star of CW’s ‘Riverdale.’” Thrive Global, Medium, 9 July 2018, 

 The interview examines the life story of Marisol Nichols. She had a rough childhood with moving around a lot and just not really being able to understand and control her problems she turned to drugs. She fell in and out of rehab and ran away many times. Though at 19, acting turned her life around and she pursued it as a career. Today she is successful and with her success has been able to help kids. She became interested in child abuse and sex trafficking to a point where she was addicted to finding a way to help. It is because she knows what it is like to have a rough childhood and she does not want that to happen to anyone else. So, she teamed up with law-enforcement and did many ride-alongs to see the life of law enforcement. She found that many people just wanted to help. Though she takes it a step farther when she decided to go undercover in a small county in California. Where she played a mom, who was selling her children for sex to get money. They set up an ad on craigslist and found a lot of people respond. They had to gather evidence and with Marisol being an actor she could make herself sound like a child. After three days of this set up the men who showed up were arrested. Marisol is now making a true story series about law enforcement and her time undercover to show the good and how much people are trying to help. She also continues to work on ending child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. 

Wheeler, Mark. “The Democratic Worth of Celebrity Politics in an Era of Late Modernity.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 14, no. 3, Aug. 2012, pp.  407–422, doi:10.1111/j.1467-856X.2011.00487.x. 

In this article the exam the idea of celebrity politics and look at the effects it has on democracy. They first had to consider if celebrity politics caused a decline in substance in debates and was more focused on the style. This can be true in some sense but not for the entirety of celebrity politics. The articles then go into what celebrity politics does and how it does it. By saying that it is achieved by adding a personalization of politics. They continue talking about celebrity politics and talk about its effects on society with mostly correlating that with the constant changing of ideas cause an altered character. Overall, with the development of celebrity politics it has not only created a connection to the disaffected members of the electorate but also gave the people involved a better and easier way to participate in their own political efficacy to crate good. 


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