This is one of those times.
One of those times that I certainly think that I need – nay, deserve – press credentials. Picture the scene, or a variation thereof:
Star Athlete/Actor/Musician: I am sorry that I have transgressed and let people down. I will promise to work on my (marriage/drug problem/gambling problem/poor acting skills) and try very hard never to let this happen again. Questions?
Me: I have a question.
Star Athlete/Actor/Musician: Yes?
Me: Why the everlasting fuck should I care what you’re doing, have done, or are about to do? I mean seriously, with child poverty, war, disease, racism, the rape of the environment, abuse of power and willful ignorance on the list of things that are waaaaayyyy ahead of you and your little insignificant peccadilos, why does what you’ve done matter one iota in the grand scheme of humanity’s march toward oblivion? Does what you’ve done actually alter a single molecule of the universe outside your own little social circle? Can you answer me that?
Star Athlete/Actor/Musician: (Weeps openly).
As you may have guessed, I’m getting a little tired of this. Athletes, Tiger among them, are physically talented – they have an unparalleled ability to complete whatever goal is required of their individual sport – that’s what makes them worthy of the title of ‘champion’. Similarly, actors, such as Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep (although others may differ, this is the first two names that come to mind among modern actors – I would put William Powell high among those of the past) can interpret characters and pretend believably to be someone else in order to service the requirements of a narrative – they are mental and physical storytellers. The good ones can help immerse you in a new world or situation so the viewer can concentrate on the narrative flow. The bad ones take you out of that world and disrupt that flow. Musicians too are sometimes capable of works of incredible beauty, nuance and social commentary.
That’s where it ends, folks. The personal activities of these people who have chosen certain types of employment in creative or competitive fields are of absolutely no interest to me, and I submit that they are of no valid interest to anyone else, either. They are well-known because of their talents on the field, screen or stage – they perform their chosen professions with distinction and well-deserved recognition. That is where it ends.
They, like any individuals, are entitled to their opinions, but they are no more or less important or valid than the opinions of others. Celebrities who endorse many causes or charities, I have no particular problem with, as they make no claims to expertise or special insight. Others, however, have chosen to insinuate themselves into fields in which they have no more talent or expertise than you or I. Perhaps less. That is at best annoying, like Bono’s solutions to the problems of the world economy, and at worst highly dangerous, like Suzanne Somers’ endorsement of vitamin cures for cancer and dismissal of mainstream oncology, or Jenny McCarthy’s campaign against vaccination due to unproven and unverified links to autism. I don’t know about you, but I’m not taking cancer treatment advice from Chrissy Snow.
The most important point I’d like to make here (finally) is that the actions of celebrities, no matter how well-intentioned, or poorly-considered, are not, nor have they ever been, news. We have conflated popularity and importance to the point where any idiot who can act his way out of a wet paper bag suddenly possesses a degree of social influence completely disproportionate to the level of importance of the work he or she performs. Granted, not all professions have an equally profound influence on society – I haven’t felt the need to listen to the opinions of a taxidermist lately. The point is that if he or she is an incredibly talented taxidermist, does that make their opinion of any issues more valid? Should a proficient taxidermist be granted the ability to evade or disregard the laws the rest of us must follow? Is this brilliant animal-stuffer justified in assuming they should be treated like royalty?
News is, to my way of thinking, information that is relevant to our lives from an economic or social perspective – crime, unemployment, political decision-making – all of these will have relevance to the way we live our lives and to the way we plan for the future. None of this applies to celebrity news, unless George Clooney decides to steal a zeppelin and crash it through an orphanage on his way to destroy Wall Street in a giant ball of flames (That, I would read about).
As far as I’m concerned, celebrity ‘news’ – including any discussion of the infidelities committed by a golfer in his personal life – are irrelevant and waste my time. This is just the kind of mind-candy that distracts us from the real issues, keeps us politically ignorant, and motivates some of us to do anything to achieve the new holy grail of celebrity – a reality show of your very own. As for their being role models, same story – they are good at a job, and if you choose to follow after them professionally using the best and the brightest as your guide, more power to you. If, however, you decide that you have to wear the celebrity’s brand of shoes or abuse others just to be like them, you have severe problems. We are losing our identities because of the aggressive sale and self-promotion of other people’s identities. Until enough of us stand up and leave the room (or change the station, or, just imagine – complain) at the sight of gossip and celebrity antics, we will continue to breed generations of people who think that a celebutante with no claim to fame other than being famous has something important to say. About anything.
Now, where can I steal me a zeppelin?