Tuesday 23 January 2018

Liberal luvvies

Celebrities need to shut up about Trump and Brexit, says Pat Fitzpatrick, and stick to what they are good at

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep

You are probably familiar with 'mansplaining'. This is where a man sits a woman down and explains something to her that she already knows. According to feminists, who coined the term, this mansplaining is a curse on humanity. But it couldn't be worse than 'celebsplaining'. This is where a comedian or actor uses their profile to explain why Brexit and Donald Trump are a threat to humanity, as if we hadn't already heard it, from actual experts, who might know what they're talking about. It's time we stopped listening to these celebs.

Celebsplaining was there in Meryl Streep's speech about Trump at the Golden Globe Awards show. Some said it was a virtuoso performance, even though she looked like she was playing the runner-up in a school debate. And then you've got comedian John Oliver's rants about Trump, which went from being very funny to 'OK, we get it'. As for Brexit, well, Damon Albarn wore a black armband at Glastonbury in response to the referendum result. And he was one of the reasonable ones.

Irish entertainers haven't been found wanting on the celebsplaining front. Dara O Briain went on The Late Late Show after Brexit and told us that the British government had to press a button marked 'Article 50', after which we had to wait two years before anything could happen. He did a quick analysis on the performance of sterling post-Brexit (using his hands) and added that the whole thing was weird and no one was sure what was going to happen. Now, in fairness, that wasn't a bad or inaccurate analysis. It's just that Dara O Briain is a funny man, and it would be nice if he made us laugh rather than regurgitating some half-arsed political punditry you might overhear in the jacks. Every second that Dara is using his hands to show Ryan Tubridy what happened to sterling, is a second he could have been telling the hilarious story of the supermarket that wouldn't stock his DVD, because it was called Craic Dealer.

Des Bishop is another who has been vocal about Trump, on Twitter and elsewhere. Des is American, so at least he has skin in the game. And to his credit, he didn't just jump on the Trump-trolling bandwagon the day after the election. He'd been at it for a while. But he also appeared at Kilkenomics, in a panel discussion with the po-faced title Trump/Clinton: Are We Witnessing The Beginning Of A New American Civil War?. Which begs the question - is it impossible to learn what's going on in the world without resorting to a comedian?

You can see why funny people of a certain age might want to be taken seriously. A joke about masturbation that was funny when you are 21 is actually sad and poignant once you hit 40. But it would be better for all of us if comedians could just stick to what they're good at. We have boffins who study the other stuff for a living. Just because economist David McWilliams wants to be an entertainer doesn't mean the funny folk should try it in reverse.

It isn't just comedians who want to point out what's obvious these days. Vogue Williams took to Instagram the morning after Trump was elected. Posting a photo of the Statue of Liberty with its head in its hands, Vogue said it was terrifying and we need to be afraid. Again, this is a reasonable viewpoint. But we don't want boring, reasonable viewpoints from Vogue. We want to know what it's like dating Made In Chelsea love-rat Spencer Matthews. And is Trump more or less terrifying than marriage to Brian McFadden?

Gabriel Byrne told Jarlath Regan, in the An Irishman Abroad podcast, that Trump won because the Democrats foolishly failed to reach out to voters in places like Wisconsin. Again, a plausible view, but also the kind of thing you might overhear on a bus.

Judging by the radio and TV, it seems impossible to interview a famous person these days without asking what they think about foreign affairs. (As in politics, rather than a fling in Venice, which would be far more interesting.) The only win here is that a famous person gets to hear the sound of their own voice. And we get to hear the bleeding obvious.

Particularly because they all say the same thing. Celebsplaining might have legs if they were willing to line up on different sides of the argument. But the only predictable thing about modern politics is that entertainers are terrified, shocked, ashamed and furious about developments in Washington and London. It seems like the sole Irish exception is Jim Corr, who tweeted his relief that Hillary Clinton lost the US election. This, as you can imagine, was offered as further proof that Jim has lost the plot, along with 63 million Americans.

It would be wrong to lay all the blame for this on the celebs. That's a shame, because celeb-blaming is one of life's great pleasures. But look at what happens if one of them steps out of line on Trump or Brexit. Poor Rory McIlroy damaged his brand and lost a few friends for daring to play golf with the newly crowned president. It's obvious Rory had the sense to lose, because Trump didn't go on Twitter after the game and promise to nuke Northern Ireland. (Or did we miss that one?)

Whatever the result, the message was clear. Anyone in public life who doesn't go all-out troll on Trump and co is going to get it with both barrels from the man in the street.

So look, comedians and luvvies, we get it. We don't expect you to offer up a nuanced take on Trump, or a pro-Brexit message, because it isn't worth the grief. But is there any chance you could go one step further and shut up about it altogether? Just do a Rory McIlroy, and stick to what you're good at.

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