Celebrity activism is pretty tricky. There’s not a lot of celebrity activism I truly condone, in large part because it tends towards the worst types of activism out there. The kind of activism where you wear a logo from a mainstream organizations that looks pretty and nice and host FABULOUS parties but do little but lip service to help the communities they’re trying to aid, all so you can get a few nice photos and brownie points for support us marginalized folks. We get it, “you care.”
One of the few celebrities whose activism (at least what I know of it) I support is Darryl Hannah, a fellow Autistic, who for years has spoken and worked tirelessly to support and aid various environmental campaigns. She gets that the environmental movement is not an isolated cause, but rather intersects with class, race, gender, and so on. In 2006, she was arrested for protesting the closure of the South Central LA farms, created in the early 1990s after the ’92 riots so low socioeconomic families could feed themselves healthy food. She has worked with native groups in recent years to protest the Key Stone XL pipe line. Yes, she gets nice pictures of her taken, yes, she gets press time, but most importantly, unlike most other celebrity activists, she gets that the activism is not about her.
Recently, it seems like Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, who have literally been only every single talk or variety show the past forever promoting SpiderMan 64 (I’m only being somewhat hyperbolic), have been trying to merge their celebrity into the realm of activism.
You might remember last month when Andrew Garfield played dress up as a transgender women for the Arcade Fire song “We Exist.” The irony of situation (that in a song about how transfolk exist, a white cis-het male was cast to play the transfemale character), as well as it’s generally fucked-upedness, has been widely dissected, and a variety of calls for him to shape up have been issued.
Today, Buzzfeed posted about Emma and Andrew doing THE COOLEST THING EVER AS THEY WERE LEAVING LUNCH. They spotted the paparazzi while eating, and rather than getting their billionth (that might actually be realistic) photo together, they made signs on notecards that essentially said, on hers, “We don’t need more attention, but these great organizations do.” On his was a small list of organizations that need more attention, including Autism Speaks.
Now, if you’ve followed my work, or the work of probably 90-98% of Autistic bloggers, you know that we despise Autism Speaks. It is a terrible organization founded on the belief that our existence is sad and pitiable and must be fixed or, better yet, eradicated.
Judging from the photo, (and the fact that they’ve done similar things before) this didn’t seem to be an impromptu yuppie moment. Most people don’t carry around with them the necessary supplies to make the kind of sign with them, let alone celebrities of that stature.
This was preplanned.
This was done with the intent not to draw attention to those organizations, let alone the marginalized groups. If that were the case, they would never had suggested that Autism Speaks, the media and fundraiser obsessed eugenics promoter needed any more attention.
This was done with the intent to play up the Emma and Andrew Care About Sad Things Card. This was done so they could look good. This was done so they could say that they cared about me without actually doing anything.
If they had listed some organizations that supported marginalized groups, organizations with whom they regularly volunteered, I’d be happy. If Andrew had helped produced a video for “We Exist” starring a transwoman, in which he played her brother, or friend, or lover, I would have believed that they might actually have cared. If they did spontaneous mini-campaigns that had a semblance of believability, I might actually have a more positive opinion of them.
But all they care about is themselves.
Emma and Andrew, you do not help me when you use your power to silence me.
You do not help me when you make your “activism” centered on your promotion.
You do not help me when I become and object that you can cling whenever you want to look good.
You do not help me.
-Piija Suoynna Riistia