Actor Idris Elba conceded that some celebrity advocacy can come across as “patronizing” and “polarizing” to its intended audience. Idris said this at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where he drew some criticism himself after traveling there to decry climate change.
Talking to Bloomberg TV, the Marvel actor admitted, “Some celebrity advocacy is polarizing. I think there is a consumer and someone at home that does not find it appealing, might find it a bit patronizing.”
Calling for celebrities to better articulate personal causes when speaking out, he added, “It’s about what you stand for. What do you relate to? How can you speak articulately without a script and feel compelling and be honest about it. That’s really important.”
The actor, often rumored to be in the running as the next James Bond, tried to redefine advocacy: “I don’t think you need a celebrity to be an advocate. You could work in an office of ten people and speak to three people about what you believe in and that’s advocacy.”
He concluded, “So if someone’s got a big soapbox, who has got a voice, speak about what you can in the way that you can. It doesn’t have to be someone who has a PhD….Just be able to be articulate, sensitive and educated.”
Elba is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N.’s International Fund for Agricultural Development and has drawn criticism for going to the swanky Davos conference to decry climate change. Talking to AFP, he critiqued, “What drives me is the unjustness of half the world eating and half the world not eating, and half the world causing considerable damage to our planet and the other half not contributing (to climate change) but starving and suffering from that damage the most.”
Avi Yemin, correspondent for Rebel News, tweeted, “Idris Elba traveled halfway around the world on a jet to collect his award from the WEF for ‘climate change and environmental conservation.’ You can’t make this stuff up.”
Elba is no stranger to putting himself out there for controversial causes and statements. In 2020, he was one of 300 artists to sign a letter calling on Hollywood to “divest from the police” and “invest in anti-racist content.”
However, he has also spoken out against censoring racist TV shows and movies, saying in 2020: “But to censor racist themes within a show, to pull it — wait a second, I think viewers should know that people made shows like this.”
The actor insisted, “I’m very much a believer in freedom of speech. But the thing about freedom of speech is that it’s not suitable for everybody.” He went on to call for warnings on potentially racist media, comparing it to the MPAA ratings system.