Why we need more celebrities like comedian Kathy Griffin in the era of Donald Trump

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      There are a plethora of reasons why comedian Kathy Griffin attracts a large gay male following. She's snappy, sassy, and she immerses herself in gay culture, frequently talking about her gay friends, LGBT issues. She even qualifies her own opinions by stating "As a gay man…".

      There's another reason that she attracts queer audiences—she identifies herself as an outsider.

      For many of the queer people who have felt like they've lived much of their lives on the margins looking in, Griffin's position as a Hollywood outsider who somehow makes her way inside, with snark and enthusiasm, is something that many can identify with.

      It's that outsider status that also has allowed her to deliver what constitutes a large portion of her act: her real-life experiences with Hollywood celebrities.

      Being an outsider can sometimes afford observers a clearer perspective than those on the inside, who may be too preoccupied with internal politics and relationships. Someone on the outside may also feel free to act and speak in ways that those on the inside cannot or feel unable to.

      In an age where celebrity news is either tightly controlled and micromanaged by PR people or questionable reports featuring nameless, unidentified sources, Griffin bypasses all of that to serve up her own interactions with the American glitterati.

      But as the Joan Rivers of her generation, her lack of restraint isn't everyone's cup of tea. And she's not beyond criticism.

      For instance, the way she handled her recent beef with Ellen DeGeneres (criticizing DeGeneres for not being supportive of other female comedians) was confusing. If she truly wanted to work things out with DeGeneres and was committed to ensuring that female comedians support each other, she could have kept that issue private and worked things out with DeGeneres behind the scenes.

      What is clear is that the comedic philosophies of DeGeneres and Griffin are antithetical to one another.

      DeGeneres is all about demonstrating respect for others and espousing being nice. Griffin, on the other hand, is about exposing what lies under the surface. She's not afraid to be confrontational, in your face, irreverent, or a troublemaker. Needless to say, that's why she's been on the D-List and has been fired from many a gig (including cohosting New Year's with Anderson Cooper).

      In one of her standups, Griffin explained that she believes that keeping secrets create problems. She's all about pursuing or expressing the truth, and has proven she's willing to do so at her own expense.

      While the approaches of both DeGeneres and Griffin are important, Griffin often stands alone in remaining true to her convictions.

      Kathy Griffin

      That was something Griffin discussed in her standup performance in Seattle on January 14 when she talked about how she protested Megyn Kelly's speech in support of Donald Trump at the Women in Entertainment breakfast in L.A. on December 7.

      The NBC News journalist (who formerly worked for Fox News) expressed that she had "high hopes" for Trump, even though she had previously criticized his sexist remarks in 2015.

      "Despite the tweets and all the rest of it, there is much to admire about Donald Trump," Kelly stated. 

      When Griffin booed Kelly and some others followed suit, Kelly told the audience (in a rather school marm–like manner) to "stop that".

      "There's room for the loyal opposition in this country," Kelly continued. "As women, we must reject the urge to fight with pigs—which gets us dirty and the pigs enjoy. But if a fight is unavoidable, then fight…with composure, and grace. And we let our children see us do it—standing tall and sometimes playing hurt."

      Griffin also held up her middle finger in protest.

      While recounting the incident during her Seattle performance, Griffin hung her head in her hands in embarrassment at her own actions and appeared bashful.

      She clarified she was not booing Kelly as a person but what she was saying. However, Griffin added that she was tired of being repeatedly left out to dry by other celebrities, when she knew that others shared the same sentiment as her but did not express it.

      Quite possible, the reluctance of others to speak out may reflect the gender inequity in Hollywood if the industry's most powerful women, which included the likes of Tina Fey and Emma Stone, felt they weren't in a position to freely react as they saw fit. On the other hand, perhaps they simply did not feel the same way that Griffin did.

      Whatever the case may be, at this point in time, as Trump's presidential inauguration is being held, we desperately need more celebrities and public figures like Griffin.

      We need celebrities who will speak out, call people out, despite a lack of support, despite opposition, despite what they have to lose, when others may be unable, unwilling, or too disempowered to do the same.

      We are in need of acts like the Dixie Chicks who are willing to critique their own president, even if it grates against popular sentiment or against those who are in power, and are able to weather the fallout, both vocal and financial, that may result from speaking out. That's what happened in 2003 when they criticized then-president George W. Bush, which resulted in a media firestorm, widespread criticism, and a financially damaging backlash. 

      Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready To Make Nice"

      It's particularly important as the rights of numerous minorities groups and women are under threat. 

      As we've seen, Trump has already had an impact on this side of the border, as after his election, discriminatory material has been distributed in cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Edmonton, Vernon, Abbotsford, Richmond, and Vancouver. Concerns in Canada about this increase in prejudicial expression have been raised by individuals and organizations like the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council or the National Association of Japanese Canadians

      For those who are concerned and want to support protests, the Vancouver Women's March on Washington will be held on Saturday (January 21) in downtown Vancouver. Also, Radical Desi and the Coalition Against Bigotry are holding a protest on Sunday (January 22) against the KKK flyers distributed in Abbotsford.

      In the meantime, with everyone from Meryl Streep to OK Go and Green Day (not to mention all the musical acts that turned down Trump's inaugurational lineup) criticizing Trump, it will become increasingly easier for others to do the same.

      But there will remain a need for others to speak out—whether in public or private situations—when they witness injustice, inequality, or discrimination expressed in any context, particularly as Trump's conduct becomes normalized and unwittingly accepted as the status quo. And what will become a less obvious problem will be complacency, apathy, and passivity.

      In the face of doubt or hesitation, Griffin's fearlessness can be inspirational example.

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