Hollywood blockbuster star Jason Momoa has endorsed the Yes campaign to his 17 million followers, causing extreme division among his local fanbase.
The Aquaman actor, 44, who was born in Hawaii and is of Indigenous Polynesian descent, shared a viral ‘Yes vote’ video directed by Australian filmmaker Nash Edgerton, which was officially released on Thursday.
It features Indigenous musician and writer Adam Briggs, who also developed the concept of the campaign clip.
New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi was first to upload the video to his Instagram page, which Momoa re-shared on his own account.
The post read: “#yes23 is a referendum taking place in Australia on October 14. The aim is to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people a Voice in parliament so they can weigh in on issues that affect their lives.
“Simple as that. How do I know this? I googled it. But many Australians are confused or freaked out about what it means. Don’t be! It’s a good thing! Just do good things! Also Google it ya lazy mongrels.”
It added, “VOTE YES to THE VOICE on OCT 14.”
Momoa’s stance prompted thousands of comments on his post, which was met with a flurry of critics who felt he had no right to weigh into Australian politics, despite the actor’s heritage.
“Stay out of Australian politics mate, do your thing in America and that, but putting your 5 cents in terms on the Yes or No vote is not with you,” one angry user wrote.
Another said, “When celebrities write political posts about other countries but don’t have the decency to even respond to the comments on there [sic] post. Stick to Hollywood.”
“Celebrity puppets sharing government propaganda campaigns. The world continues to get weirder,” a third added.
On the other side of the coin, many heaped praise on Momoa – who has previously spent time working and holidaying in Australia – for loaning his powerful voice to the Yes campaign.
“I can’t even begin to thank you for sharing this. I will not read any more of the comments,” one supporter wrote.
“Thanks for sharing this. It is a big deal here and causing a lot of controversy and misinformation,” another said.
“Thank you and Taika for the solidarity. The lead up to the referendum has been really rough on our communities and it’s actually really nice to get some encouragement from our Indigenous brothers from across the seas,” a third added.
“Thank you for adding your voice to the thousands across Australia who will be voting yes. Every voice counts,” read another comment.
The video itself, a no-nonsense endorsement of the Yes vote, has spread rapidly across social media since it dropped Thursday. The three-minute skit-style clip shows Briggs talking to two ignorant women [played by actresses] about the upcoming Voice referendum.
The trio are chatting over drinks at a pub, where the women – giving off casual bias – echo sentiments from the No campaign, claiming the referendum is “complicated”, “confusing” and they’ve heard “Indigenous people don’t event want it.”
“80 per cent of us do,” Briggs calmly states. “Have you Googled it? The proposal. The referendum, Have you Googled it?”
The women laugh, saying they’ve “not had heaps of time”, because, you know, “Life.”
Briggs laughs along with them, before adding, “Have you got your phone? Let’s see what you do have time for,” he says as he opens up the woman’s search history. “‘Did Aaron leave Love Island 13 because he had gonorrhoea?’ Big questions,” Briggs jokes.
He then Googles the proposal and lands on the government website in seconds, as he asks the women to read out the basic explainer.
“The Voice referendum means we are voting to have a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice who may make representations to parliament on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Voice will give independent advice to parliament and will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the wishes of communities. That advice then goes to parliament who continues to hold the ultimate power for legislative change,” the woman reads.
“OK, well, that is quite clear, I’d just vote yes to that?” she adds. “How did you find that? You went on Google, and it’s, the first result? OK, well you need to tell people about that Google thing.”
A message then flashes onscreen, ‘Vote Yes to that referendum thing.’
Australians will officially hit the ballots on October 14 to vote on the Voice referendum, with early statistics showing majority of voters are leaning toward a No vote.
In the middle of September, The Guardian collected and compared results from 48 polls and 10 different pollsters to create estimates for each state. The ACT, Northern Territory, and Tasmania were not counted toward these estimates.
Although there was some variation between polls – including, for instance, their sample size, questions asked, weighting and difference in reporting – which can affect estimates, the modelling does not bode well for the Yes campaign as Australia nears polling day.
Support for the referendum dropped 21 percentage points nationally in the past year with declines across most states – especially South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. Victoria had the smallest decline (18 points), while support in Western Australia dropped the most by a massive 25 points.
High profile people have ramped up their messaging in recent days, with Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary announcing his support for the Yes vote in a social media video posted immediately after his team’s NRL Grand Final win.
“No Voice, no choice. Come on Australia, vote Yes,” Cleary said in the video.