Social justice is becoming commercialized. The wave of college educated young folks with limited income has prompted the entertainment industry to cater to our interests. We’re interested in gay rights, reformed drug policy, women’s issues, and the starving children across the globe.
But such recognition with the aim of profit, doesn’t always sit well with us deep-thinking folks. The many of us who see the strings that puppet masters manipulate. Regardless, there’s a lot to be said for social justice toting in pop culture.
Giving attention to social causes is always a great thing. In this day, when we’re inundated with the latest Kanye rant or naked Rhianna photo, it’s nice to relish in positivity and responsible intellect.
It’s one of my deepest held beliefs that those in positions of immense wealth and power have an obligation to leverage their status to the plight of the less fortunate. To do otherwise is a waste, and I otherwise refuse to fork over my hard earned dollars or precious time capital giving them praise, wealth, or recognition. It’s why I don’t peruse blogs checking for the latest Dior clutch Kim K is carrying.
So when I see celebrities actively advancing social causes, I can’t help but applaud them to some degree. For example, although Macklemore’s “Same Love” isn’t the best hip hop song I’ve heard, I must acknowledge the courage it takes for a heterosexual male rap artist to make such a pronouncement. Especially given the notorious homophobic legacy paramount in hip hop culture.
Non profits clamor for attention and financing for the work they do. It doesn’t hurt when their causes are partnered with pop culture icons.
However… the genuine value of such recognition is dubious. Is Beyoncé realllllyyyyy a feminist, or is she gaining favor with liberal yuppies who will then buy her albums? Is Macklemore realllllyyyyy a gay rights activist, or is he co-opting the growingly popular gay rights struggle? We’ll never have the answers to these questions, but they do raise doubt.
When you look at the conflicts, those doubts grow even more so. Take Beyoncé, the feminist that penned a shallow essay about gender equality. If we are to believe that she’s a feminist, then her unapologetic hypersexualization is troubling. How can she inspire young girls to be professional women proud of their physical and intellectual attributes when they’re constantly bombarded with half-naked images of her?
The most successful social justice campaigns usually come from a position of privilege, more specifically, white privilege. No, Beyoncé is not “white” but she is thoroughly white washed. Very rarely do we see her without a cascade of blonde hair piled on top of retouched lightened skin.
Even with Macklemore, a rapper who’s garnered accolades for his pro-gay marriage cause, raises an unsettling truth about white privilege. At last night’s Grammys, he took home the award for Best Rap Album, which caused reasonable uproar in the Black hip hop community. Although it’s no secret that the Grammy’s regularly shades Black entertainment, last night’s sting was particularly painful.
Robbing Kendrick Lamar from his win was brutal. Given the craftsmanship that is good kid, m.A.A.d city, and the conceptual message it cleverly raises about surviving the negative influences in an impoverished and crime-ridden community, one can rightfully argue that it’s a better collective work than The Heist. And yet, Kendrick received no awards. Kendrick does not fit into the hip pop sounds the Grammys favor.
What’s more is that Macklemore’s concept isn’t entirely original. Gay rapper Le1f has been promoting gay inclusion for awhile now. He is also of African descent. This isn’t to take anything away from Mack, but does he really deserve the avant-garde status that we’re seemingly pushing him in?
Such is the downside the social justice when it flies under a celebrity’s banner. The celebrity must look, act, and sound a certain way before their allowed to carry a cause.
We live in a capitalist society in which supply and demand is the foundation for any industry. Progressive social justice is currently in demand.
Social justice is cool from a marketing standpoint, and a more educated consumer base will quickly turn over their earnings to the celebrity or industry that endorses a cause. It’s why Tom’s shows became so popular.
Industries get bonus publicity points when they’re associated with a campaign. We momentarily forget their poisonous business dealings when they donate a lump sum of cash to the starving children in Darfur. And then, we buy even more of their products because it we feel that it’s our way to support their causes. Everybody wins.
In conclusion …
The commercialization of the struggle is rife with conflicting emotions. We feel good at first, but when we dig deeper, we may find discomfort. We live in a capitalist society that’s been revered for its profit-making dominance in the global world. We have to play within the immoral and unethical confines in which we are placed.