As human beings, creative people have just as much right to vote and express themselves politically as any other Americans.
But what hurts many celebrities and artists today is the way in which they put forth their thoughts and beliefs. Some musicians exploit the spotlight to make political points about President Donald Trump or other topics — without thinking about their audiences, a likely diverse group of people who also often pay a hefty amount to see them. Other performers think a public stage gives them the right to be smug and to insult, without consequence, those who vote differently from them.
Some artists have made the conscious decision to remain silent in public about politics — and to deliver their views of the world only through their work. And it’s been nothing but beneficial for their careers.
Here’s a look at three stars who have avoided insulting the president or bashing voters who think differently than they do — and how, for their careers, it has paid off in spades.
1.) Kevin Hart. The comedian is one of the most bankable stars today in a world in which star power means less and less for films. Hart has twice avoided bashing Trump in interviews, saying both times he wants his comedy to be positive and to bring together as large a group of people as possible.
“The way I see it, my job as a comedian is to spread positivity. To make people laugh,” Hart told The Daily Beast in a recent interview when the subject of politics came up. “And I don’t want to draw attention to what’s already pissing us as a people off.”
He added, “I want to take your mind off whatever may be going on in your life that could be wrong and give you a reason to say: ‘You know what? It’s going to be OK.’ That’s being the positive, motivating, inspiring person that I am, that I always will be.”
Hart said he understood his audience wouldn’t always agree with his opinion, and he didn’t want to push it on them. “Everybody’s not going to see things the way I want to see them. And they shouldn’t … That’s what makes us individuals. In that particular realm, I keep my opinions to myself. And like I said, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say it at all. I’m not in the business of trashing people.”
In May, he played the same hand with Variety in an interview: “When you jump into that political realm, you’re alienating some of your audience.”
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This has only helped Hart’s appeal to audiences. Forbes named him the highest-earning comedian of 2016, with a reported $87.5 million in income. He’s also one of the few actors who can bring in crowds to original films.
Last year’s “Central Intelligence” brought in over $120 million domestically, and his two recent “Ride Along” movies with Ice Cube brought in a combined $220 million in America. A third film is on the way.
The 38-year-old is essentially an unstoppable force at the box office currently, with hits such as “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Captain Underpants,” “Kevin Hart: What Now?” and “Get Hard” all part of the past few years of his filmography.
Hart has cast a wider net than any other comedian currently at work.
2.) Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg is no fan of actors who share their political opinions. Of celebs who talk politics, the artist told Task & Purpose magazine last year while promoting his film “Patriots Day,” “A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn’t.”
The results of the 2016 presidential election, he added, proved how ineffective celebrity influence was on politics anyway. “It just goes to show you that people aren’t listening to that anyway … They might buy your CD or watch your movie, but you don’t put food on their table. You don’t pay their bills.”
The 46-year-old Wahlberg also said what many Americans are already thinking about certain preachy celebrities. “A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guys out there providing for their family. Me, I’m very aware of the real world. I come from the real world and I exist in the real world. And although I can navigate Hollywood and I love the business and the opportunities it’s afforded me, I also understand what it’s like not to have all that.”
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Wahlberg has for the past few years redefined himself as an actor and producer capable of starring in both light summer blockbusters and heartfelt stories that highlight blue-collar American heroes.
He’s headlined hit films such as “Ted,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” and “Transformers: The Last Knight,” while also diving into films that tackle true and harrowing tales, including “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon,” and “Patriots Day.”
He also stars in and produces a reality series with his family about their burger joint, called “The Wahlburgers.” It’s currently in its seventh season.
Not everything Wahlberg touches is an immediate hit, of course, but he remains one of the last marketable leading men. He’s in that position for a very good reason. He knows not to insult half his audience — and he understands the importance of keeping himself distanced from the “bubble” that is Hollywood.
3.) Dwayne Johnson. Though he constantly talks up a potential future run for president, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson almost never gets into his specific politics. This is why, like Wahlberg and Hart, he has a very broad appeal and is the top-grossing star in movies as of late.
The actor has headlined numerous hit original films, including “Central Intelligence” and “San Andreas” recently. He’s also helped propel franchises such as “Fast and Furious” with his tough-guy appearances.
The closest Johnson, 45, has come to talking politics was when he was asked about the president’s travel ban, which he disagreed with. He said, “I believe in inclusion. Our country was built on that, and it continues to be made strong by that. And the decision felt like a snap judgment. I feel like the majority of, if not all, Americans feel that protection is of huge importance,” he told GQ.
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Despite this one statement, Johnson never names Trump in interviews or tweets his specific beliefs. He is asked more frequently these days about his politics thanks to his teasing of a run for president — so it’s even more impressive he’s managed to hold off on specific comments about the policies of the current administration.
Johnson understands how much benefit there is to not exploiting his platform to preach politics to his audience — which no doubt includes many voters who opted out of supporting Hillary Clinton last year.