Will Matt Damon's politics cost him at the box-office?

matt-damon_lAfter the trailer for Matt Damon’s Green Zone premiered on the Web yesterday, packaged to resemble the next installment of the Bourne franchise, initial feedback to our PopWatch post about it was generally enthusiastic. However, there is also a vocal faction that seems to resent films that have a self-critical political point of view and the actors who espouse them. “This is basically Damon goes to fantasy Iraq and spews his conspiracy theories. Not interested,” wrote one commenter. “Wow…yet another ‘Blame America’ movie from a bunch of actors…none of whom would ever pick up a gun in real life to defend it,” typed another.

Damon has never been shy about his politics. He criticized the war in Iraq, campaigned for Barack Obama during last year’s election, and ripped into Sarah Palin, comparing her vice-presidential bid to a “really bad Disney movie.”

Actors and other celebrities risk a backlash whenever they voice their personal opinions on public matters. Just ask Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, or Tom Selleck. Activism can have a price.

So the question is, Has Matt Damon reached the Sean Penn Threshold? Does the subtext of his personal politics so permeate his art that he might subsequently alienate a portion of the moviegoing public?

Can you appreciate the work of artists who you disagree with on important matters? Can you still enjoy a Springsteen song, or a Toby Keith tune, if you don’t share their respective politics? Does Damon’s — or George Clooney’s or Clint Eastwood’s — politics ever affect which movie you see on a Friday night?

Photo Credit: Janet Mayer/PR Photos

Comments (121 total) Add your comment
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  • shakespeare

    Matt is in another realm, he can say what he wants. If the movie is right people will show up to see it.

  • Stephen S.

    I would like to think those people are just a small minority. Otherwise, then it would seem people like their celebrities to mindless zombies with no personality whatsoever.

  • Jerry

    Unlike some other actors, Damon is actually likable. He can get away with voicing his opinion a little more than others. As long as he doesn’t enter the Sean Penn zone, I won’t be too judgmental of his stances.

    • MaraW

      Not only is Matt Damon likeable, he is relateable. Other celebrities (i.e. Sean Penn) lost some appeal because their message became “if you don’t agree with me, you are stupid”.

  • Bobby’s Robot

    All Americans have the right to voice their opinions, including movie stars.

    • aquila6

      And all Americans have the right to express their disapproval of a celebrity’s expressed opinion by declining to support that celebrity financially.

      It’s called voting with your wallet.

  • Blue

    Since when do we care what right wing douchebags have to say? They sit on their Jabba sized behinds all day filling blogs and boards with their invective with one beady eye trained on Fox News. They make a lot of noise but are just another nutty cult like polygamists and cat ladies.

    • wildecat

      ….Blue said while typing on an entertainment blog….

      • Debbie

        Polygamists and cat ladies are almost always liberal…who’s nutty???

      • DL

        Yes, because the one religion that is chill with polygamy wasn’t an integral part in the Prop 8 stuff in CA or the current Maine gay marriage stuff…

    • whatevs

      Seriously, your ignorance and hypocrisy are everything that is wrong with the world, regardless of what your beliefs are.

    • Chris

      But we’re supposed to care what left wing douchebags have to say? I’m glad you’ve developed a convenient stereotype for anyone who disagrees with your Obama kool-aid drinking rhetoric. You’re just as bad as any of the Republican trolls out there. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your politics doesn’t mean they are a mouth breathing idiot.

      • ho5000

        watch you say about mouth breathers

    • 100steps

      So basically it’s only Left Wing Douchebags we should care about. Sometimes it’s too easy.

    • NicWin

      Did you not just describe yourself?

    • Neville

      How true, and I wish that they themselves would get off said asses and go to the recruiting center and enlist in the army to go fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But of course, they won’t-most of them are Keyboard Kommandoes, anyway.

      • Big Rob

        Gee, Neville, are you posting your comment from Kabul?

    • hyphenate

      Hey! Please don’t put those of us who love animals, in particular cats, in the same category with right-wingers or polygamists! If you are referring to those people who have more than a manageable amount of felines, that is not a “nutty cult”–they are called “collectors” and many of them suffer from a mental disorder. The rest of us are quite stable, and long for a day when there are no strays or overpopulation with which to deal. It probably won’t be in my lifetime, but I can hope it will happen someday.

      As for Matt Damon, he’s a damn fine actor, and I would watch him in almost anything he did–acting ability is more of a deciding factor for me than politics, though I do have some reservations about a few who seem to have a lot of needless violence in their films.

  • Zach

    I think every single person in this country has the right the express their opinion. That’s one of the things that makes this country great. If you don’t agree with him or the politics of a certain movie, then you don’t have to see it. But just because you don’t agree with him doesn’t mean he should no longer have the right to express how he feels.

  • Luddite

    My ability to enjoy a Toby Keith song has nothing to do with his politics. His music is just bad. (That said, I also disagree with the politics he espouses in the bad music.)

    • Amanda

      I think my inability to enjoy Toby Keith has to do with the incredibly crass way he puts his politics into his bad music…”put a boot in your ass?” Lovely, sir.

      • JLI

        I thought Keith said that was satire, but all the country music folk took it seriously… I think Keith might actually be a lefty…

      • RussBurlingame

        JLI – Springsteen had the same issue with one of the songs on THE RISING. The CHARACTER in the song is baying for blood and while it was really supposed to be about an irrational person being driven by their emotions he started getting cheers for the line at concerts.

    • steph

      I’m pretty sure I’ve read that Toby Keith is a Democrat. Which surprised me, because I tend to think of all country singers as right-wingers.

  • torrence5

    Tobey Keith is a bad example to use – he didn’t support free speech/expression of the Dixie Chicks & has continued to make a boat load of $$ out of singing about the war.

  • Lauren

    My thing about about celebs and political points of view is admittedly hypocritical, but I don’t care. They can think whatever they want and discuss it with their friends, but when they use presenter time at the oscars to say a little ditty about why something is bad or awesome- I almost feel like I’m being held hostage. The fact that they’re given this microphone (in every sense of the word) insinuates that their opinions mean more than ours. I didn’t go see Leo DiCaprio or Al Gore’s movie- but it doesn’t lessen how much I like them in non-politically infused things. Did that make any sense?

    • Fridge

      Yes. If an actor wants to make a stand or political statement on their own personal time, go for it. I’m not going to stop watching Matt Damon or George Clooney just because they happen to be Democrats and I’m not. I do agree with you though about being “held hostage” when they’re in front of a mic on some awards show. That’s never the time or place to drag your personal politics out.

    • Billy

      Perfect sense. It’s all about the time and place. When actors go on Real Time, I know that’s what they’re going to be talking about so I can decide if i want to tune in or not. If, however, they’re on the Late Show/Tonight Show to plug a movie, they should do what is expected of them… Tell a funny story and plug the movie.

    • Chris

      Umm. Mute button? Or change the channel? Unless you are in a Clockwork Orange scenario and force fed their speech, you have the ability to turn away from their acceptance speeches. Besides, the music usually plays them off the stage. Or lately, censored in a tape delay.

      • whatevs

        Instead of changing the channel every time someone gets on their political soapbox, the award winners could just refrain from forcing their opinions on people. Just a thought.

  • Fred

    For me, the only actor whose politics are a big turn off is Sean Penn — and I’m mostly left-leaning — but I just can’t stand the guy. I hope Matt Damon never reaches that point because I enjoy his movies.

    • Fred

      Forgot to mention that Jon Voight’s rightwing diatribes makes him incredibly insufferable these days as well.

      • RussBurlingame

        I agree with you on both points, but both of these guys just come off as jerks whose politics are far less of an issue than the shabby way they want to cram them down your throat.

  • talkin’

    short answer to the original questions: No.

  • Roy

    Believe it or not, Toby Keith is a democrat who supported Barack Obama. I wish the left would embrace him cuz as a conservative, I don’t want him!

  • Grace Hunt

    If one looks back on movies made over the years, even since the time of of Charlie Chaplin’s silent pictures, there seems to have been or to be a message that relates to some way to politics. To me anyway, no matter what movie you see you are being sent a message that you could represent if you wish to be a political view. People have their opinions on how this world of ours is going around better or worse. It seems that a positive note is being struck when actors, directors, writers, etc. wish to send some sort of message that helps uplift, or enhance this world of ours. To finish this, if you want to see the movies made by Matt Damon (Matthew)or any other actor such as George Clooney or Clint Eastwood, use your own discretion. As long as you enjoyed the film and can walk away feeling better about the world or yourself then bravo. Take a bow ladies and gentlemen, the comment is over!
    Luv Grace

  • Valerie

    Great post, Lauren!

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    Quite honestly I think all actors should shut up and play the part they are paid to portray in a movie, why should they pretend to care for average people? Do the average people score several million dollars a year? They are all hypocrites and I ceased to actually listen the gibberish they spew off screen, I just go and enjoy a good movie and forget who is in it.

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