Of Glamour and Politics
The Cult of Celebrity in Politics has slowly but surely come into being! There was a time when politics was a category unto itself with politicians well..sort of stubby, portly and not so well endowed looks wise!
One of the first politicians who had the movie star looks was John Kennedy, then along came Bill Clinton .Between the Kennedy and Clinton period, glamour and politics started merging, with movie stars running for elective office and winning! No doubt it is because of their mass appeal and huge fan following!
Ronald Reagan and Rajiv Gandhi
What better example can we quote other than Ronald Reagan who was the 40th US President? The other notable movie star turned politician is governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with Clint Eastwood playing a lesser political role.
On par with the movie stars, the current charismatic US president is known as “Rockstar’ Obama, for his ability to pull in huge crowds because of his magnetic presence and oratory skills! On the other hand, political parties do use celebrity film stars as brand endorsements during election campaigns!
Closer home, here in India, after decades of old drab politicians (apart from Indira Gandhi) we had a young and charismatic, Oxford product Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister about the time when Ronald Reagan was the President in USA. In fact, I was in US, way back when Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia had just ended their official US trip and hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I was accosted at various Malls and other places with a, ‘You are from India? You have a handsome Prime minister!’ Unfortunately Rajiv was later assassinated by the Sri Lankan terrorists but now, Rajiv’s handsome son Rahul, slated to be our future Prime Minister leads the Congress party along with his mother Sonia Gandhi.
Perhaps the first Indian movie star to enter the political domain, storm the elections and come to power as the chief minister of the state was a south Indian matinee idol called MGR. He remained in office for about a decade till his death, during which period he groomed his co-star and protégée Jayalalitha into politics, who proved her political mettle by being elected as the chief minister of that state in early 90s. She is known as the Iron Lady and ‘Amma’ meaning mother!
Following the footsteps of these two stars, another movie legend NT Rama Rao from a neighboring state, known as the blue Lord, for donning the role of a God with blue face and other mythological roles in many movies, swept the elections and came to power in that state!
Other Indian celebrity stars like Amitabh and Dev Anand (the Indian version of Gregory Peak) had short stints at politics only to abandon it and return solely to acting! Subsequently many Indian movie stars have turned to politics as the booming film industry seems to be a fertile ground for launching political careers. It is a bit difficult to believe that the stars join the political foray driven by a desire to serve society - power seems more likely to be the incentive criterions!
In other international snippets, Joseph Estrada , the megastar of the Filipino film industry, became the 13th President of Philippines in late 90s. In Poland the famous twin brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski of ‘A Couple that Stole the Moon’ fame contested to become the President and Prime minister of their country, but then, though they lost the elections they are still in active politics. Should we mention Ilona Staller, the porn star who turned politician in Italy? So much so for role models! Furthermore, the dividing line between politics and movies have blurred with politicians like Senator Fred Thompson taking to playing fictional characters on television shows!
We can possibly assume that Princess Diana with her royal star status started the Celebrity humanitarianism trend! Her campaigns against landmines and global poverty, created an impact. Now, the list of celebrity rock stars, musicians, actors and celebrity sports idols campaigning to raise money or create awareness for various relevant issues and causes are endless! There have been many awesome shows and concerts for humanitarian causes but the recording of the song ‘We are the world’ by a super group of popular musicians billed as USA for Africa was truly overwhelming!
I love this quote by Ronald Reagan, 'Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.' Very true!