Idol Chatter

The “Show Me” state’s airwaves have been overrun with showmen these past two weeks, leading up to a hotly contested Senate race between incumbent between Republican Sen. Jim Talent, who opposes an embryonic stem cell initiative, and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill, who supports it. Celebrities including Michael J. Fox, Sheryl Crow, Particia Heaton, and Jim Caviezel have all participated in campaign ads, creating a Battle of the Network Stars: The Left Team vs. The Right Team.

The showdown began with Michael J. Fox–actor, Parkinson’s activist, and a member of the NBC Battle for the Network stars team–stomping for McCaskill and the stem cell initiative in ads that the Associated Press has called “powerfully vulnerable” and Rush Limbaugh decried as Fox just “acting” and “off his medication.” In the ads, Fox is visibly sufferring from the effects of his Parkinson’s, swerving and bobbing back and forth. Maybe Fox wasn’t on his medication serving to dramatically illustrate–critics would say exploit–the plight of Parkinson’s sufferers. But campaign ads are manipulative by nature; think Dukakis and Willie Horton. (Fox has also taped ads for Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, running for the Senate in Maryland, and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.)

Not to be outdone by The Left Team, self-professed conservative celebrities attempted a counter-play by releasing ads opposing the stem cell initiative ballot. “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Patricia Heaton, actor Jim Caviezel (Jesus from “The Passion of the Christ”), and football great Kurt Warner are hoping to energize opponents of embryonic stem cell research.

When Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency in 1980, his acting past was fodder for stand-up comedians and political enemies alike. Now, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California governor’s office, Sean Penn reporting from Iraq, and celebrity after celebrity testifying before Congress, we don’t blink twice when personalities morph into our politicians, and vice versa; think former President Clinton on “Arsenio” and MTV. But do these talking heads really make us vote for the issues, turn us off completely, or just serve to create name recognition? All of the above.

All political leanings aside, and even with the man who played Jesus as his competition, I would give Fox the victory in this Battle. It’s hard not to be affected by his plea and his presence; besides, who could say no to Marty McFly?

Watch Michael J. Fox’s ad here, and the right-wing response ad here.

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