This awards season has had many of the viewing public appalled as they watched entertainment film and television luminaries shift from self-congratulatory mode to political preaching overdrive.
Prior to the 59th Grammys, industry insiders had already telegraphed that Sunday night’s show would feature music stars who were free to let loose and air their political grievances.
And so they did. Oftentimes comments were delivered with not-so-clever implications and other times with pure vitriol.
It is unfortunately what the public has come to expect from monolithic Hollywood, the antithesis of what is professed to be its high virtue, tolerance. But there appears to be no willingness on the part of those who have come to believe their own hype to constrain their egos or to apply a “live and let live” philosophy when it comes to the differing political ideologies of our times.
Not content to follow the lead of Lady Gaga in her recent Super Bowl performance, in which despite her outspokenness on a number of controversial issues the singer stayed away from the insulting or offensive, Grammy presenters and performers were intent on jabbing the president and tangentially those who support him.
Not that Grammy shows of the past did not have their share of political pokes, but things have clearly crossed a line.
In 2014 rapper Macklemore was featured in a segment seeking to address homophobia and misogyny in the hip-hop business.
In 2015 the Grammys included a segment intended to bring awareness to sexual assault on university campuses, which featured a video speech by then-President Obama and a related performance by Katy Perry.
In 2016 rapper Kendrick Lamar during his performance appeared as part of a chain gang to point out injustices perceived.
However, recent releases by nominees Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, and John Legend spotlight political content with a distinct and heightened left-of-center slant.
The political themes of Beyoncé’s “Formation,” which in the past musically and visually insulted law enforcement, are once again present in the singer’s current release, “Lemonade.
Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book” features a great deal of positive religious content but also has some vulgarity and racially provocative language. He is a political activist who, prior to the last presidential election, led a “parade to the polls” in Chicago to get out the vote for then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He was also one the performers who, along with the aforementioned Beyoncé, appeared at an all-star rally for the former secretary of state.
Legend was given a Grammy and an Oscar last year for his song “Glory,” which contained lyrics that made reference to Ferguson. The singer already made his views on the current president known during a Hollywood Reporter roundtable in which he made Hitler references about the then-president elect.
Katy Perry, who is now an admitted “political activist” and who performed at the musical awards show, chastised her “wasted zombie” fans in a music video for her new single as she promised that her new album will be “pop with a purpose.”
Music industry insiders put out numerous warnings that the Grammys would be hijacked by politically active artists. The feeling in the Grammy organization was that the political posturing was inevitable.
“We are clearly living in unique times, times of many perspectives, and our community is not shy about voicing their thoughts and opinions,” Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy, told the Los Angeles Times.
Ken Ehrlich, Grammy awards producer since 1980, encouraged participants in the awards show to use the ceremony to express whatever political message they wished to deliver.
“All of the [award shows] after the election had people on them that felt that it was important to express themselves about their political feelings,” Ehrlich told the Rolling Stone.
“So naturally as we come up in the queue, we’re an organization known for protecting artistic freedom. We expect that artists will have things to say and while we’re not a forum for that, we also don’t feel that it’s right to censor them,” Ehrlich added.
All Hollywood needed to do was to follow Lady Gaga’s lead.
Next round comes the Oscars, and the odds are that politically offensive language will be on the rise while entertainment takes another tumble.