Find the latest episode of "The Uncertain Hour" here. Listen

Hollywood’s influence on politics

Kai Ryssdal Jun 23, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Hollywood’s influence on politics

Kai Ryssdal Jun 23, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Celebrities endorsing politicians–and, indeed, the idea of politicians becoming celebrities themselves–goes back a lot further than you might think.

“It’s always been driven by a mix of obsession and fascination with power, the desire to be seen with the celebrity that is politics,” says Timothy Stanley, author of the book “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics.” 

But in the late ’20s and early ’30s, Stanley says, it was mostly driven by “hard-headed business decisions.”

“People do make money out of this connection,” he said.

Hollywood has always been able to raise a large amount of money for political campaigns throughout its history — $13 million in one month during the 2012 Presidential campaign, Stanley says.

These days, however, he argues that Hollywood has had a poisonous impact on politics. A lot of it started with the election of one John F. Kennedy, and his father’s ambitions to make one of his children President of the United States.

“When [Joe Kennedy] wants Jack to run for the Presidency, where does he send him to learn charm and star power? He sends him to Hollywood,” Stanley said. “And the Kennedys discovered that what it required was being seen with beautiful people, it was going to expensive events, and developing that Camelot glamour.”

It’s this commitment with charm and star power, Stanley says, that has diluted American politics.

“I always find it sordid that you could drop names and get elected based on the people you’re seen with,” he said. “It’s not healthy for a constitutional republic to have that kind of glamourization of its political leaders.”

As Stanley points out below, there’s a point where having star power for the sake of having star power doesn’t help your case.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.