If you’re in need of a good laugh, I highly recommend Annie Lennox’s heartfelt but self-refuting declaration of her own bravery.

There are plenty of reasons to admire Lennox as an artist. But she is not the world-historical truthteller she insists she is, and her attempt to convince us otherwise is a perfect example of what happens when a celebrity expresses an opinion that isn’t unanimously held.

“I took the chance to say something because I felt so strongly about it,” Lennox said about her call for a ceasefire in Gaza during the Grammys, according to the Hill. “But what I did—it’s risky speaking.”

Indeed, so few are willing to call for a ceasefire these days.

As silly as her declaration sounds, at least it is a recognition that mainstream art and music have become so unthreateningly dull that artists old enough to have lived through edgier times can’t help but feel some nostalgia for when people in their industry occasionally said something interesting. I think it’s good that Annie Lennox wishes she had something to say.

As a further defense of Lennox—I do hate to be too hard on her; Lennox’s cover of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is otherworldly—artists get this nonsense fed to them from their fans. Lennox was quickly eclipsed by what has already become one of the more famous Oscars speeches: Jonathan Glazer’s, in which the director of a Holocaust movie compared Israel to the Nazi regime he depicted in his Academy Award-winning film. “His speech,” Judy Berman raved nonsensically in Time, “was a moment of moral courage inextricably intertwined with his film’s urgent message.”

In fact, Pin the Tail on the Anti-Zionist Donkey is the easiest birthday party game in the world precisely because, in the fields of politics and entertainment, a blindfold and some light vertigo won’t stop you from finding your mark. But even that came after viewers had to hold a public debate talmudically dissecting every syllable of Glazer’s poorly written and delivered remarks so that everyone could at least agree on what it was he was trying to say. Glazer, it turned out, is an extremely poor political communicator.

Berman was undeterred by reality: “Glazer was taking a real risk by speaking up for Palestinians on Hollywood’s biggest stage. In November, Susan Sarandon was dropped by her talent agency and actress Melissa Barrera was fired from a role in Scream VII for expressing certain pro-Palestinian views.”

Is that what happened? I remember it slightly differently, and The Hill story that quotes Lennox seems to confirm my recollection of events: “actor Melissa Barrera was booted from ‘Scream VII’ following what the production company behind the film called her ‘hate speech’ on social media about the Israel-Hamas war. Barrera had reportedly referred to Israel as a ‘colonized’ land and circulated an ‘antisemitic trope that Jews control the media.’”

Quite so: The comments that got her in trouble weren’t about Palestinians at all. She just has nasty things to say about Jews.

But that actually gets at an interesting point raised by The Hill. The story, written by Judy Kurtz, is about the fact that celebrities seem to have slowed down on their political endorsements and activism for the 2024 election compared to previous cycles. Kurtz asks celebrities and public-relations professionals why that might be. She gets an unusually honest collective answer.

The comedian Nikki Glaser tells Kurtz she doesn’t like to do political bits in her standup because she cares too much about politics, which leads to worse comedy: “I’m too angry about it. And you know, if I get too angry, sometimes it can be funny, but it’s like I’m too angry to be funny and people can sense that. It turns you off when you’re watching someone just like rage and lose control.”

Glaser is saying something I wish more performers understood: She’s not afraid of politics, she’s afraid of being a terrible comedian. Kevin Hart said the same thing for basically the same reason: “We all have lanes, and there’s nothing wrong with operating in the lane that’s best for you.”

Words to live by. Annie Lennox desperately wants to have something interesting to say, but she doesn’t. Melissa Barrera thought she could express her feelings about Jews without falling into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, but she couldn’t. Jonathan Glazer attempted to make a clear and compelling moral statement, but it was beyond his skill set. Luckily for them—and for us—none of them quit their day job.

+ A A -
You may also like
Share via
Copy link