At the moment, I’m disappointed to announce, an article by Sean Penn is at the top of Blogdex. (for the uninitiated, Blogdex is one of several sites that analyzes and ranks what people are talking about online). Would this article get this much attention if it was written by, say, Ed Wilkowsky of Bent Elbow, Saskatchewan? I think not.
I’ve only skimmed this article, because Penn’s opinions about Iraq don’t interest me. Why don’t they interest me? Because he’s a frickin’ actor! If he wants some credibility, then he should go study foreign policy for a few years, or work internationally as a journalist, not prance like some melancholic baboon in the moving pictures. I should note, that, while I don’t much care for Mr. Penn’s work, this rule applies to almost all celebrities.
I’m desperately tired of spokespersons of all political flavour and background weighing in on issues. They may have a speaking platform, but generally they’ve only got platitudes and baseless suggestions. Whether its Charlton Heston (he may be firearms industry expert, but I certainly haven’t gotten that impression) or Janeane Garofalo, stick to what you do best: entertaining us. I’m opposed to innter-city sweatshops because they’re exploitative, not because (the hotness that is) Julie Stiles thinks they’re totally lame.
I can hear my dear readers protesting already: “but they give voice to an important issue!” Indeed, certain celebrities may highlight issues that are important to you. However, the sum total of all famous people everywhere weighing in on their favourite issues only raises the general din of advocacy. Nobody benefits.
Maybe when, you know, Bach was explaining to crowds about the plague-stricken, sewer-dwelling homeless, he might have gotten some traction. But once Pachelbel started arguing for musket control, and Vivaldi advocated more public hangings, and Corelli worried about horse-and-carriage pollution, the public stopped paying attention. Just play the music, boys.
I make two exceptions to this rule: benefit concerts and expert celebrities. At benefit concerts, celebrities are really just applying their core activity–the singing, the dancing, the what-have-you–to a cause they believe in. That’s admirable, and is the same as me writing marketing content for, say, Sierra Legal. If they want to hold forth on AIDS or Our Troops Overseas at these events, then fine. After all, they’re preaching to the masses.
Informed, well-read expert celebrities are few and far between. Generally, they’re famous because of their work in a given field, not because they’re actors , singers or (shudder) ‘it girls’. Michael Moore is a good example, as is Stephen Hawking. Now, I don’t want to hear Moore discuss quantum physics or Hawking discuss firearms control, but you get the idea. Also, if a mainstream celebrity has dedicated considerable time and effort to an issue, I’m likely to pay some attention. For example, Tim Robbins has been a lifelong environmentalist.
Also, I don’t mind them making appearances on humiliating game shows that illustrate their ignorance for charities.