#BeyBeAHero, and the Role of Celebrities in Politics

There’s a fight in Houston – and folks are calling on Beyoncé for help.

By Rhonda FanningAugust 21, 2015 12:43 pm, ,

A brawl’s been raging in Houston since 2014, when its city council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The ordinance extends equal rights protections to citizens based on their sex, race, ethnicity, military status and several other classifications including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Those protections for gay and transgender residents have been opposed by some Houstonians. Ultimately the Texas Supreme Court said the issue needed to be put to voters.

So with two groups battling it out, how might one side claim victory? Maybe with a celebrity endorsement of Houston hometown hero Beyoncé.

Twitter has lit up with the Hashtag #BeyBeAHERO, trying to get the singer to voice support for the LGBT protections in the ordinance. So how does, or should, star power influence public policy? Jane Hall, professor of communication at American University, has some thoughts on the subject. Listen to the interview in the audio player above.

On taking political advice from celebrities:

“Celebrities are sort of like the Greek gods of our modern day civilization. To be fair, a number of them take very seriously how and when they want to attach their celebrity to a cause they consider worthy. George Clooney has done a lot of work around Darfur. Angelina Jolie worked with the United Nations. A lot of politicians go out to California, to enlist either the money or the celebrity association. So I’m not surprised someone has the idea of trying to get Beyoncé since she’s from Houston. …  I know that a number of celebrities like Barbra Streisand have people who help them figure out what causes they want to associate themselves with. It’s a trend that’s here to stay I think. How they decide to use it is a very interesting phenomenon to me.”

Should politics be kept out of entertainment?

“I think that’s a valid point. The Dixie Chicks got in trouble a few years ago by saying they were embarrassed to be from the same state as President Bush. A lot of people don’t want politics mixed in with their performances. I can understand somebody not wanting to be preached to at a concert. I think that’s a slightly different deal. But obviously, whoever is trying to get Beyoncé wants to plug into her social media and the fact that she’s from Houston. We’ll see what she decides to do to that.”

Do celebrities have a responsibility to speak out?

“I think in some ways they do have a responsibility if they feel strongly about it. I’m not saying they have to be political – but I think if I had that kind of capital, I would be thinking, ‘What would I want to do with it?’” It doesn’t have to be Democratic or Republican ‘political,’ it can be something else.”