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Celebrities need a new way to make a difference

Celebrities need a new way to make a difference

Remember when a bunch of celebrities used their massive social influence to swing a US presidential election?

Yeah, didn’t quite happen. But that hasn’t stopped another group of stars — Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Matthew McConaughey, Chris Pine, Hailee Steinfeld, Felicity Jones, and Taraji P. Henson — from trying to protest the incoming Trump administration with a hip disco cover.

I’ve complained before that while these sorts of efforts look nice on the surface, they’re at most preaching to the choir, and at the least self-serving.

More than three decades ago, American conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke served conspicuous celebrity altruism its most righteous burn when deconstructing the Live Aid concerts in his book, Give War A Chance:

As an example of chivalry, Live Aid couldn’t be worse. Charity entails sacrifice. Yet the Live Aid performers are sacrificing nothing. Indeed, they’re gaining public adulation and a thoroughly unmerited good opinion of themselves. Plus, it’s free advertising.

I’m not quite as cynical as that, and indeed I believe that these celebrities mean well. But one of the things that seems to happen to human beings who are worshipped at the temple of celebrity is that many of them believe they have a lot more influence than they think they do. Their entourages, and especially their most committed fans, cause them to think that the world hangs on their every word and Instagram post. But if the last US election has taught us anything it’s that there’s more to politics than the opinions of actors and rock stars can control.

Plus, let’s not forget that this isn’t a charity PSA; it’s branded entertainment for W, a high-end fashion magazine now owned by Condé Nast. This tells who this video is aimed at: the well-to do, fashionably liberal set. Their readers are probably not the Americans who voted for “anti-elitist” billionaire Donald Trump; not the Americans who need to be convinced that they can do better things for themselves with their democratic rights.

And as P.J. said, it’s FREE ADVERTISING.

Yes, I’m giving them more by sharing it. But if I could offer a better way to help the cause, I suggest that rich and famous people spend their money, more than their time, on the issues that matter to them. Donate to Planned Parenthood (which is in danger of being defunded by the new government. Support the Southern Poverty Love Center, the ACLU, HRC, or another fighter for equal rights. Step up and dig deep, because most of your fans don’t have the resources you do.



Disclaimer: I was once a freelance-substitute-intern for W’s Milan bureau


I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more