Kurt Russell is the latest actor to come under fire for their political opinions, though in a surprising twist, The Thing and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 star is being attacked for his holding of any particular ideology, but for his opinion that actors should remain politically neutral.
In the world of 2020, it seems like every social media post from a celebrity is an endorsement of a political movement, to the point where it’s a genuine rarity when a celebrity doesn’t chime in with their opinion about the current climate nowadays. As such, it’s refreshing when a celebrity does the opposite and takes a stand against the zeitgeist, sticking to their guns and keeping their business about entertainment.
But, whatever tact and neutrality such an actor may attempt to exercise in the political realm, folks looking to call them out will never be far behind.
Such was the case with Kurt Russell, who found himself the target of an outrage mob following the publication of his recent interview with the New York Times, done in promotion for his upcoming film The Christmas Chronicles 2, due to his advication for actors to refrain from using their celebrity as a political stage.
During the interview, after being asked if he still stood behind his previous statements calling for actors to remain politically neutral, the ‘Ego the Living Planet’ actor replied, “Totally.”
“I’ve always been someone who felt we are court jesters,” said Russell. “That’s what we do. As far as I’m concerned, you should step away from saying anything so that you can still be seen by the audience in any character. There’s no reason entertainers can’t learn just as much as anybody else about a subject, whatever it is. But I think that what’s sad about it is that they lose their status as a court jester. And I’m a court jester. That’s what I was born to do.”
When his The Christmas Chronicles 2 co-star Goldie Hawn playfully jabbed that Russell was “not always funny”, the actor replied that “A court jester isn’t always funny,” explaining how “a court jester is the only one who can walk into the castle and put the king down as long as he doesn’t hit too close to home,” and sharing how he thought this role and its dynamics to be “a big, important part of all cultures throughout history, and I’d like to see it stay in ours.”
“The one thing I don’t agree with [the mainstream thought about] is that just because we have a platform we always have to use it,” said Hawn, echoing Russell’s sentiments. “That is our choice.”
A Backlash Kurt Russell May Never See
Given that Russell is not on any social media, it’s important to note that this interview is the only avenue he has to communicate with his fans about his beliefs, his roles, and the life he has led to the point. However, the responses to the Hollywood Reporter’s interview are telling of a very different social atmosphere than what the actor may expect of contemporary America, with his statement sparking a backlash after its publication that, thankfully, he may never see.
Twitter user @geekbroll wrote that “Kurt Russell saying this can only hurt HIS career. We got 250k dead Americans & rising. Trump is AWOL staging a coup. Really makes #KurtRussell sound unAmerican to not have our back in this moment. Hide instead of the BS. But other stars are stepping up & helping.”
Kurt Russell saying this can only hurt HIS career. We got 250K dead Americans & rising. Trump is AWOL staging a coup. Really makes #KurtRussell sound unAmerican to not have our back in this moment.— Universal Basic Income is the way (@geekbroll) November 19, 2020
Hide instead of the BS.
But other stars are stepping up & helping.
A blue checkmark user, @TheRebecaMetz, asserted that “Silence in the face of cruelty and injustice speaks volumes.”
Silence in the face of cruelty and injustice speaks volumes.— Rebecca Metz (@TheRebeccaMetz) November 19, 2020
“We’re not stupid we know you are human,” stated @jklara. And if im [sic] going to invest my money, time and energy in adoring your work, i need to know were you stand as a human.”
“There are a gazillion good actors out there,” they concluded. “i will be hurt if you are a bad human but will move on to the next”.
We’re not stupid we know you are human. And if im going to invest my money, time and energy in adoring your work, i need to know where you stand as a human. There are a gazillion good actors out there, i will be hurt if you are a bad human but will move on to the next— Jaika Lara (@jklara) November 19, 2020
Yet another blue checkmark, @ryan_a_bell claimed that Russell’s statement was “the least brave thing I’ve heard this year,” and considered it to have “made all of the characters he played weaker. Good job, wrinkly toolbox.
That’s the least brave thing I’ve heard this year. He just made all of the characters he played weaker.— Ryan A Bell #BlackLivesMatter (@ryan_a_bell) November 19, 2020
Good job, wrinkly toolbox.
“So actors shouldn’t have morals,” said @lellyah1234, in a gross misinterpretation of Russell’s opinion. “Gross.”
So actors shouldn’t have morals. Gross— Lel (@lellyah1234) November 19, 2020
Considering that this entire controversy was sparked by Russell being asked whether his opinion on celebrity neutrality had changed, it’s important to note that he has been consistent in his opinions toward this topic.
In an interview with the Daily Beast in 2015, prior to the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, he spoke about how he conducts himself with the political realm:
“Here’s the thing: I’m just selling a movie. I never go out there to do publicity about anything other than the movie. I have my political point of view, of course; I’m an American and I’m entitled to it. But I don’t like espousing it publicly.”
In that same interview, he explained that he was libertarian, though deviated from some of the other well-known, self-proclaimed libertarians in Hollywood, such as Bill Maher. He also spoke to his belief in a limited Constitutional government and free market capitalism. Though Russell didn’t give any preference to any political candidate in the interview, he admitted that he was informed about the political realm, but explained that he did not want to have an agenda about it, which might explain his absence from social media.
Some Support from Fans
Conversely, Russell has also seen a noted amount of support from other social media user, with several people sharing their admiration for the actor’s statement on celebrity involvement in the political realm., particularly in the face of the litany of actors who, over the course of many years, have been awkwardly vocal about who they were voting for, what political stances they were taking, what movements they embraced, what organizations they supported, etc.
Twitter @lodonis replied to the Hollywood reporter stating, “As if I didn’t already respect #KurtRussell as an actor. I also respect him as a man.”
As if I didn't already respect #KurtRussell as an actor.— Stephen Walton: Nonfiction & Sci-Fi Author (@Lodonis) November 19, 2020
I also respect him as a man.
“Smart man!” asserted @LaReinaCreole.
Smart man!— La Reina🇺🇸Creole🇩🇴🇯🇲🇵🇷🇹🇹🇨🇺🇭🇹🇲🇽🇨🇴 (@LaReinaCreole) November 19, 2020
“He is correct,” said @Aurelianus_1 in agreement with Russell. “Young actors are killing their careers by being active in politics. If you annoy say a quarter of the consumer base that could be the difference between a film or tv show succeeding or failing.”
He is correct . Young actors are killing their careers by being active in politics. If you annoy say a quarter of the consumer base that could be the difference between a film or tv show succeeding or failing.— Aurelian PEPE (@Aurelianus_1) November 19, 2020
To which @ianwindsor691 added, “I rather think a lot of Hollywood actors should STHU because nobody wants to be told from an overly rich pretender what to do…”
I rather think a lot of Hollywood actors should STHU because nobody wants to be told from an overly rich pretender what to do…— Ian (@ianwindsor691) November 19, 2020
In a comment posted alongside a retweet of the article, @JeffreyATurner1 declared, “Now HERE’S a guy who GETS it.”
Now HERE'S a guy who GETS it. https://t.co/rTNJtJAGXX— MegaJetty1 (@JeffreyATurner1) November 19, 2020
Pressure to Bend the Knee
Unfortunately, the negative takes on the actor’s statement have been more prevalent than the positive, though this isn’t surprising given the backlash many other actors have received in the face of their own respective attempts to stay neutral in regard to political issues.
Like Russell, actor and former MMA fighter Gina Carano has also faced similar mobs of dissenters on social media. On Twitter, the Mandalorian actress did not acquiesce to the demands of a few of them, most notably, that she put pronouns in her Twitter bio in a forced show of support of LGBTQ audiences. Instead, she changed her handle to read Beep/Bop/Boop, setting off a multitude of online activists to call for the actor to be fired from the widely popular Disney+ Star Wars series.
A similar thing happened with Guardians of the Galaxy actor Chris Pratt earlier in the year, after the actor was outed by Ellen Page for his attendance of Hillsong Church, whose beliefs explicitly do not endorse the LGBTQ lifestyle.
His faith, combined with his own preference to remaining politically neutral and private with his personal positions, has been a sticking point for many online, which resulted in social media making assumptions and labeling him as a Trump supporter and a Republican, as if it were some sort of scarlet letter.
The out roar over his neutrality eventually resulted in accusations that Pratt’s silence served as consent to and support of whichever negative political stance any given critic presumed him to hold, which in turn led to his cast mates and fellow Hollywood cohorts to publicly push back against the online mob.
Other actors have faced backlash from cancel culture practitioners for merely having what they believed to be the ‘wrong’ worldview or opinion on the political climate, such as Russell and Pratt’s fellow Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Zoe Saldana faced backlash from online mobs who criticized her for taking the role of Nina Simone, arguing that she wasn’t black enough.
More recently, Star Wars and Final Fantasy voice actor James Arnold Taylor had to defend himself against attacks on social media for joining the Parler app, for which many, including Star Wars veteran Mark Hamill, took the actor to task, with Hamill claiming that the app “was a a self-described “pro-free-speech” website that promises not to fact-check content as Facebook and Twitter increasingly remove or flag viral fake news and misinformation.”
In regard to the false claims being made about me… pic.twitter.com/MszWGZG911— James Arnold Taylor (@JATactor) November 15, 2020
What Will Endure in the Long Run
Whatever the situation is with the internet discourse, Russell’s position seems to be more the exception rather than the rule in the world of celebrities, with studies showing that Russell’s stance may be the more politically beneficial one in the long run.
The backlash, however loud and obnoxiously consistent, might then only be a small part of a potential audience, with a greater audience out there simply looking for good entertainment, something Hollywood has been struggling to provide. in this last year.
What do you think of Kurt Russell’s statement about celebrities? Sound off in the comments below or let’s talk about it on social media!