Olivia Rodrigo is a pop sensation currently experiencing a meteoric rise to stardom. Her songs regularly top charts and go viral on TikTok. She appeals to a broad audience of adolescent Zoomers and extremely online pop fans. Naturally, that made the Biden administration consider her As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to young people, who better than Rodrigo—a young and influential superstar—to promote it?
Rodrigo appeared with President Joe Biden to tell anyone watching that vaccines, like the title of one of her songs, are “Good 4 U.” She delivered some prepared remarks in the White House news briefing room. It was a resounding success for the Biden administration, since it’s been difficult to reach younger people about getting the shot. But not everyone was happy with Rodrigo’s appearance.
OAN is mad the WH is "using" Olivia Rodrigo as a "celebrity muppet pawn" to "push" American teens to stay happy and healthy by getting their COVID vaccines pic.twitter.com/ESUK8HmS8K
— Bee (@mount_bees) July 16, 2021
Most right wing media outlets would react this way. It’s an easy layup. Cast the administration’s plan to encourage vaccines for young people as some insidious plot. Make the celebrity seem like a corrupted pawn. Portray the entire thing as a desperate, evil charade. “You could say the White House knew exactly what they were doing why they asked her to speak,” this OAN anchor says, as if the administration were trying to hide it. Rodrigo’s no more of a pawn than people paid to spew bullshit on networks like OAN.
The anchor continues: “if the vaccine is so good, why do they have to push it? Shouldn’t Americans want to take it on their own?” That’s awfully rich coming from someone on OAN, a network YouTube banned last year for spreading a bogus COVID-19 “cure.” Maybe the reason vaccine drives have slowed is because the administration and health officials are constantly battling that kind of misinformation. Right wing media networks and pundits have pushed COVID-19 and vaccine skepticism constantly for months. That could account for why some Americans simply don’t want to take it on their own.
It’s fair to wonder if there’s a tinge of culture war jealousy here, too. Rodrigo represents the kind of youth outreach opportunity conservatives dream of. Most right wing media types know the Trump administration likely would’ve struggled for any kind of celebrity endorsement, even for a breakthrough vaccine. Does that underscore the corrupt nature of fame and liberal trappings of the entertainment industry. But you can bet if roles were reversed, the GOP would employ every TikTok star alive to talk about why abortion is bad. Charlie Kirk’s appeal only goes so far.
The Biden administration is focused on getting as many people vaccinated as possible. That now includes young people, who return to in-person schooling in less than two months. They need results fast, so they’re playing the hand available to them. It’s not just a smart play, it’s a necessary one.