Convenient Activism (Final Draft)

I’ll admit, there are very few causes that I actively care about. I have opinions, sure, but not ones strong enough to protest about it or be a large, vocal supporter. Usually, the only time I find myself arguing about anything is about sports with a friend. Those are the real issues that I can sink my teeth into, the ones that make or break a nation.

Needless to say, I’m not much of an activist.

So naturally, when a new issue comes up, I don’t come out spouting my opinion on the internet or to friends and family. If anything, I’ll try to research the issue to best form my opinion. But really, there are few issues that prompt me to do so, as sad as that sounds. Basically, that is to say that I don’t try to form opinions when it’s convenient. I’m not going to suddenly actively support an issue just because it’s widely publicized and seems like I should have a strong opinion just because everybody is talking about it. And certainly, I’m not a convenient activist.

Convenient activism is the worst. Well, not quite the worst, but I’ll get into that later.

But first, what is convenient activism? Convenient activism, in actuality, isn’t activism at all. According to dictionary.com, activism is “the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations,protests, etc.” Essentially,  activism is when someone is heavily invested in an issue and shows that interest through heavy expression. Convenient activism stems from when someone conveniently forms an opinion on an issue because the issue is pertinent. The person isn’t necessarily invested in the issue,  but rather invested in having an opinion because people are talking about it. From this convenient opinion comes convenient activism, which really isn’t activism, but is a haphazard vocalization through the internet and with friends. 

Basically, when the latest big story starts sweeping the news channels, everybody thinks they have to have an opinion. Most of the time people grasp for the popular, easy opinion without researching to understand the full scope. That, I’d argue, is the worst type of ignorance in this case, or at least the most annoying type. For issues that I actually cared about, I saw it come up in the Adrian Peterson child abuse scandal and Richie Incognito’s bullying of Jonathan Martin. Tons of people reached for the low hanging fruit, spewing ignorance and assassinating each of these men’s character. In this case, the heavy vocalization through social media was an example of convenient activism. People weren’t invested enough to show true activism, but because they wanted to show everybody that they had an opinion, they chose to spew their opinion and vocalize against these men in a form of convenient activism.

Within this  convenient activism, you find what, in fact, is the absolute worst. Amongst activists, you’ll find people who are so self righteous that they’ll criticize people who are aren’t being ‘activist enough’, grasping at straws and calling them hypocrites. Take, for example those who criticized the “Demand A Plan” PSA. Released after notable gun violence issues, the PSA switched between various celebrities who call for gun control. It was a fair commercial, an example of celebrities using their space to support a cause.

When viewing the commercial, I didn’t think much of it. Because I’m used to seeing PSA’s, it didn’t faze me, as despite the issue being powerful, the words weren’t very powerful. Even if the people in the commercial truly are passionate about the issue (some of them are), few commercials can truly illustrate that passion accurately and in a timely matter. Beyond that, I couldn’t conjure up much criticism. Sure, a commercial isn’t going to lead to more gun control laws or stop people from using guns in violent matters, but the commercial was just fine and not really deserving of criticism. If you’d like these celebrities to use their space more, and call for changes in protests and rallies instead of just briefly talking in a commercial, that’s fair. But in this case, they spoke and reached a large audience, even if they commercial wasn’t very effective or powerful.

Still, overflowing with self importance, some managed to find a reason to criticize the video, deeming the celebrities hypocrites. In a particularly wide reaching criticism, a youtube user named “MIke Hunt” mashed up the commercial with examples of the celebrities in the commercial using guns in movies and TV shows. This is supposed to be hypocritical, as despite advocating against guns, they are, in a way, advertising for them by using them in wide-reaching shows and movies.

According to youtube activist “MIke Hunt,” these celebrities are hypocrites because “They make millions from an industry that thrives on gun entertainment and films that glorify violence or trivialize gun safety” and because “Their industry also overwhelmingly supports a President (screw the left and the right ) whose foreign policy includes using drone weaponry, bombs, and bullets which kill children (that’s bad, remember) in the Middle East.”

This is so stupid. First of all, the 2nd point is awful, as no one becomes a music star or actor while thinking about the political ideologies of the industry. Yes, Jamie Foxx shouldn’t continue acting or Beyonce singing because some entertainment higher ups support the president. When they were younger, they should’ve thought long and hard about the political views of those in their dream profession. If only Beyonce was to forgo her love of singing and entertaining when she was younger for the greater good of spurring the higher-ups in the industry in the event that she became famous. Such a lack of foresight.

Then to the video itself. Saying an actor is hypocritical because there’s gun violence in their movies lacks depth of thought or any look beyond the surface of the issue. Yes, guns often play a part in movies– sometimes a very substantial part. The inclusion of guns in a movie, though, has no political undertones or any intention besides that of entertaining. It’s the nature of movies. People want to be entertained, and guns can often be entertaining to people. It’s not very complicated, it’s just an entertainment mechanism. To boot, guns are simply necessary in some movies or shows to make them realistic. American Sniper couldn’t be made without guns. Any mob movie or police movie can’t be made without guns. If you want to argue that these movies shouldn’t be made because of the gun violence and the potential effects it can have on the youth, that’s fine. I don’t agree with it, as some directors or actors want these stories to be told, and they can’t be told without guns, but it’s fine. If you want to argue that the inclusion of guns is for anything more than entertainment, though, than I can’t help you.

Sorry, but being part of an industry that includes guns and supporting gun control aren’t mutually exclusive things. It’s not hypocritical, it’s just the nature of the entertainment industry. Look at Jamie Foxx, for example. Foxx has gotten great criticism, as despite killing loads of people with guns in Django Unchained, he’s been active in advocating against guns. But Foxx didn’t star in Django with political intentions. He joined the cast, I’m sure, because he liked the plot and the idea of the movie. Outside of that movie, though, he’s spoke actively against guns, admirably using his fame to talk about an issue. And although Foxx has also noted in other interviews that movies do influence children, movies like Django, or really most of the clips in the Demand A Plan remix, don’t reach a ton of children when they’re quite impressionable. By the time someone watches Django, I doubt they’d be young enough to be effected in their views of guns.

The role of guns in movies, though, should be accepted. Fact is, guns are always going to exist in movies in some capacity and they need to exist in some capacity to make some movies. No matter how clear it is that these movies can have negative effects on children, these movies will always be made because money supersedes these effects in many people’s eyes. The actors, though, don’t necessarily see it that way. They don’t choose to star in these movies with political views in mind. They do it because they’re entertainers, and if they like the plot of the movie enough, they’ll star in it. This inclusion of guns though, is naturally going to effect the young, impressionable minds of some children in some capacity. The actors, I’m sure, realize that, but sill star in movies because they’re actors, and as actors they’re bound to star in movies with guns. They’re just doing their job.

Besides that, it should also be noted that no matter what, there will always be factors that will influence people when in comes to guns (mental health and the environment/place you grow up in, I’d argue, are the main factors). Focusing on one portion (Movies and TV) is quite short sided, as not one sole thing is the influence. It might be hypocritical to star in these movies and support gun control at the same time, sure. But these actors know that even if they didn’t, kids would still be influenced by guns in other ways.

Evidently, the only thing these celebrities or anybody can do is to express their views on gun control and best inform people/children that guns should be used carefully or not at all (if that’s their viewpoint). As I see it, the people in the “Demand A Plan” video are doing just that, some even more who’ve spoken out for gun control in other outlets. By that, they’re doing a lot more than self righteous, self important, fake activists.

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