I never knew Tami Taylor from “Friday Night Lights” was from my hometown. Well, actually, it was actress Connie Britton. The familiar face that popped up on my laptop screen during late night Netflix binges is now appearing in my newsfeed talking about my hometown election.
In the past week, multiple Facebook ads for The Hometown Project appeared on my newsfeed. This organization was created to help elect progressive candidates running in the general election by recruiting celebrities from the same area to speak out on behalf of the candidates. These celebrities were referred to as a campaign’s “energizers” rather than celebrities. This was most likely done to provide a more positive connotation for the celebrities.
One can see familiar faces like Mark Ruffalo, Haley Webb from “Teen Wolf”, Jason George from “Grey’s Anatomy” and singer Jason Mraz on the Hometown Project’s Virginia voter page. Each celebrity created a short video for the Democratic candidate running in their hometown or county.
Upon watching some of these videos, I concluded that hearing these celebrities speak about issues affecting my home state while some filmed their video in a California home felt out of touch. Britton no longer holds her Virginia residency according to IMDB, and Virginia Beach probably isn’t Ruffalo’s first place to stop to surf. The city of Lynchburg, where Britton and I are from, holds different values than the ones Britton is endorsing. The city leans predominantly Republican, and endorsing a Democratic candidate shows Britton is unaware of what people in the area really want.
In October, the Associated Press reported that actor Alec Baldwin, who’s known for impersonating President Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” campaigned for Democrat candidate Amanda Pohl in Midlothian, Virginia. He knocked on doors and talked with potential voters about the upcoming election. Baldwin has never been a Virginia resident but sits on the board of advocacy group “People for the American Way,” which organized his stops. During his interview, Baldwin poked fun at Republican candidate Amanda Chase for getting into a dispute over parking with Capitol Police and offered to leave a roll of quarters in her mailbox. This is especially hypocritical because Baldwin himself plead guilty earlier this year to harassing a man over a parking spot.
As the 2020 presidential election approaches, the LA Times data team created adatabase for presidential candidates who have the most star power. No. 1 for the most star power was Kamala Harris, but the LA Times wrote Harris is the “Game of Thrones” of the 2020 primary saying, “...devoted fans, strong story, disappointing finale. She’s tops in celebrity backers but tanking in the polls.” Harris suspended her campaign a month later. This shows that the candidates that celebrities love and support aren't resonating with the majority of the public.
A poll released by The Hill in June reaffirmed this idea, stating that 65% of voters believe celebrity endorsements have no effect on who they vote for, and younger voters were the ones more swayed by a notable celebrity’s endorsement.
Voting for a candidate because a favorite celebrity gave an endorsement isn’t smart and discourages voters from doing the research on a candidate themselves. In the future, voters should focus on the issues and values that are prominent to them and not what a celebrity thinks they are.
Allison Baxter is a junior media arts & design and communication studies double major. Contact Allison at email@example.com.