Posted by: hillary210 | July 25, 2009

Obama and Celebrities

This article highlights the hiring of actor Kalpen Modi (better known as Kumar in the Harold & Kumar movies) as the associate director of the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama White House. The author looks down on (conservative bias..?) the relationship Obama has with celebrities: “At a time when ordinary Americans are struggling through the darkest economy since the Great Depression, and the president is confronting epic problems like health care and the nuclear ambitions of Iran, Mr. Obama can ill afford to be seen cavorting with Hollywood types.”

The article discusses the frequenting of celebrites to the White house: Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, LepDicaprio (to name a few) have all stopped by recently. The author points out, “Some longtime Washingtonians take umbrage at this kind of celebrity diplomacy. Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have declared the White House “the people’s house.” So why is it, their critics wonder, that the doors of the people’s house seem to open more easily to certain kinds of people than others?”

She also goes on to say, “If you use it correctly, Hollywood can be very helpful in fund-raising. But it can also be a liability.”

Can Hollywood and government mix? Should they mix – and to what extent? Is it acceptable for Obama to give celebrities the time of day while neglecting other (potentially more) important things? Or, since we all know the HUGE influence celebrities have on the majority of the country, is it a good thing for celebrities to get politically involved, thus motivating the public to get educated and involved themselves? This is kind of the same argument about soft news vs. hard news that the Oprah Effect article brings up.

I think it is a throw-up. The president making friends with celebs can bring both good and bad things. Arguably, this is the first administration with such close/personal support from Hollywood and therefore there is no precedent. I guess we will find out exactly how much bad and how much good as his term unfolds.



  1. Richard Nixon met with Elvis in the Oval Office. John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were no strangers. Ronald Regan was a former actor for crying out loud. Least we forget who the current governor of California is. Hilary Clinton had a bounty of celebrities supporting her throughout her 2008 run profiled here: Celebrities announcing their support of a particular candidate is nothing novel. Neither is the concept of celebrities speaking at respective partys’ national conventions or performing for the president. The concept of Hollywood and White House coming together is nothing new.

  2. Agreed, however the “new” thing I was referring to was mainly about the actor Kalpen Modi being hired for a legitimate White House job (correct me if I am wrong, I don’t think a celebrity has actually been employed by the White House). I also do think that the Obamas have had the most celebrity endorsement out of any family to enter the White House. The article I referred to acknowledged Reagan and other historical celebrity involvement. My point was not that Hollywood is mingling with government for the first time, because clearly that is not the case. Rather, they are mingling in a different, more fine-tuned manner. Today, celebrities have blogs, websites and especially twitter boasting their political views and priorities. They endorse agencies and organizations and all the while, the E! channel will include a clip of (for example) Leo Dicaprio speaking at an environmental awareness protest in the Daily 10. Celebrities are getting involved with the President/ government in new ways and (perhaps I didn’t make it clear) my question is simply what effect can this have now and in the future?

  3. I think Sarah Palin was alluding to this move in her final resignation speech yesterday: Palin warned that “anti-hunting, anti-Second Amendment circuses from Hollywood” that use “delicate, tiny celebrity starlets” to push their cause.

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