First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance at last night’s Academy Awards, drawing pointed remarks from various critics that the cameo is politicizing Hollywood, and that it was tactless, and cheapening the presidency. However, given the already extant, pervasive politicization of Hollywood and the frequent treatment of politicians as celebrities in their own right, this kind of integration of pop culture and politics should be no surprise.
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin asserted that Michelle Obama’s presentation of the winner for Best Picture was "downright weird", and that if the left has "their president’s interests at heart, they’d steer away from encouraging these celebrity appearances." Michelle Malkin retweeted Nolan Finley, calling for the separation of "Hollywood and the state."
However, the two arguably biggest headline-driving entities of our media-centric, commercialized society are Hollywood and the state. It should not be a shock to realize that they have developed a deep relationship with each other, making the separation of the two impossible.
The material of Hollywood films are themselves incredibly politicized, even when looking just at this year’s Best Picture nominees. "Zero Dark Thirty" is about the capture of Osama Bin Laden. "Lincoln" focuses on our 16th president. "Argo" depicts the Iranian hostage crisis from Carter’s presidency.
It’s also common for celebrities to endorse political candidates, especially during the Presidential elections. High-profile celebrities often fundraise and donate to political campaigns, furthering the relationship between Hollywood and politicians.
Moreover, the existence of politicians in Hollywood isn’t unheard of. Former President Reagan was former president of the Screen Actors Guild. Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin starred on SNL during the 2008 presidential campaign. And just a few weeks ago, Former President Bill Clinton presented "Lincoln" at the Golden Globes to a standing ovation.
The presence of politics and politicians in Hollywood extends further into the realm of pop culture as a whole, with .gifs being made for political gaffes (Marco Rubio, anyone?), President Obama imitating the McKayla Maroney "not impressed" face, the media frenzy surrounding every affair of every politician, the list goes on. I don’t advocate infidelity, but I’m sure the media did not sensationalize FDR’s longtime affair with his wife’s secretary the way we sensationalize every little gaffe and every scandal today, to the point where politics doesn’t seem to really be about "politics" anymore to the American public.
Given this, why is it so awful that Michelle Obama presented the Best Picture award at last night’s Oscars? How can it cheapen the presidency, when our sound-bite-driven, sensationalist media has already cheapened politics and solidified the partnership between Hollywood and the state? We can’t accuse the FLOTUS of politicizing the Oscars; Hollywood and the Oscars were already politicized to begin with.
Let’s face it, our media is driven by sensationalized news: the little, trivial stories that we blow out of proportion. In this kind of setting, the union of Hollywood and the state is a match made in heaven. It’s time we accepted that for what it is.