Sounding Off: Rudy Giuliani, and how politicians use celebrity status to hide their pasts

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For anyone who has not yet heard, disgraced former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was recently a contestant on Fox’s game show “The Masked Singer.” The episode he is featured on is set to air in March, according to CNN, and upon learning of his involvement with the show, judges Robin Thicke and Ken Jeong walked off the set. Now, this is a funny story, but there’s a lot more to unpack here about the nature of how America views politicians. 

For starters, this is not a conversation about whether or not those with celebrity status should enter the political arena that’s an argument for another day. The takeaway from the Giuliani debacle is a conversation about the opposite topic — whether those who gain political power should be treated as celebrities during their terms and after they leave. 

Naturally, Giuliani is an incredibly extreme example of a politician gaining celebrity status. While some politicians leave their positions with a bang, Giuliani’s last public position as the personal lawyer to then-President Donald Trump ended with him being linked to the incitement of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the capitol. It’s only been a year since then, and the fact that he’s already making whimsical TV appearances is an atrocity. Giving someone like him a platform only serves to muddy memories, so that bad acts can be more easily forgotten. Giuliani is not a man who should be remembered as “that ex-mayor who appeared on ‘The Masked Singer,’” he should be recalled as “the man who called for ‘trial by combat’” with the only opponents in mind being those who upheld a free and fair election. 

Perhaps the most famous example of politicians-turned-celebrities is the British royal family. In fact, their celebrity has become so much of their identity that it almost seems easy to forget that British royals arguably once held the most political power in the world. Along with simply having celebrity status, the royals also are the perfect example of how that status can work to erase negative memories. For instance, when Harry and Meghan accused members of the family of being racist towards their son Archie, who is biracial, defensive outrage came from supporters of the family, stunned that anyone would make the accusation that the British royals might be racist. However, to anyone who is vaguely familiar with the historical exploits of the British crown, this was not a surprise at all. British colonialism, all done in the name of the monarch, was a racist, oppressive system, and its impacts are still felt all over the globe. Viewing the royals from only the celebrity perspective allows people to only see the grandiose weddings and the tabloid drama, but all of that masks centuries of oppression. 

In past articles, I have written about how historical figures should not be put on pedestals because they were merely human like the rest of us, and this should not be a consideration only extended to those in our past. Obviously, celebrities of some kind will always exist, as it is impossible in the world we live in to stop people from paying attention to certain spheres, like the entertainment industry. However, the political sphere does not have to be one of the ones with a spotlight shining on it. Public servants are in their positions to do their best to better society, not to go on game shows or grace the covers of tabloids. 

Of course, those who choose to boost the celebrity status of controversial politicians are equally at fault here. Is it a coincidence that the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox network was where Giuliani chose to show up? It could be, but regardless of whether it was or wasn’t, there are advantages to capitalizing on these kinds of figures. The world loves to read and hear about scandal, and while the reality TV industry showcases myriad examples of this, much scandal also comes from the grim realities of our political system. The key is to understand that there is a big difference between characters on a show and people charged with keeping this country afloat. Those who work to blur that line for their own personal gain are making a mockery of the very positions they represent. 

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