Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Defines a "Useless Celebrity"?

With the biggest self-congratulatory exercise of the year over with (that'd be the Oscars), I thought it would be a good time to expand on what exactly is meant by my repeated use of the phrase/label "useless celebrity".

Are all celebrities useless? Is any child of God truly useless? I would say no to both. However, I would say that someone who either has gained their celebrity status in a totally worthless-to-society way (like, for example, Paris Hilton), or has used their celebrity status to make some sort of incredibly shallow political statement (like, for example, Scarlett Johansson), qualifies to be called a useless celebrity. They're not useless people, but things they say and do may very well be useless in and of themselves and should be considered as such.

(Incidentally, the Scarlett Johansson entry is still my most visited. If nothing else, I suppose that keeps me humble about the reach of my so-called punditry. And I guess it does illustrate how much we, as a world, seem to care about the irrelevant and trivial instead of what's truly important.)

I guess the fact that so many people care about what the beautiful people do and say makes it important for us to discern what statements, if any, are useful, and which are useless. Sadly, those making the useless types seem to vastly outnumber the others.

For example:
  • Ashley Judd's silliness (as documented here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) regarding Sarah Palin has come and gone, as has, apparently, Ms. Judd's acting career, which is why she has to make such a courageous stand against someone hated by virtually all of Hollywood. Seriously, what has she done since Ya-Ya Sisterhood? What has she done worth watching since Double Jeopardy? (Disclaimer: the previous sentence is my opinion, as is the entire entry. Duh!)
  • Tom Hanks has made and then backed away from rather divisive statements about California's Prop 8 supporters.
  • Cher stated, in the midst of an anti-Republican rant, that living under Republican "rule" almost killed her. (See also here.)
  • In addition to the venerable Ms. Judd, it appears to be becoming mandatory for liberal celebrities to concentrate their vitriol onto Governor Palin. It should come as no surprise to anyone to hear from people such as Janeane Garafalo, the once-great David Letterman, the supposedly objective Gwen Ifill, and, of course, the supposedly worthwhile and generally unfunny Keith Olbermann that they think Sarah Palin is apparently either such an idiot as to be unable to tie her own shoes without help, or a bimbo fantasy. Or both.
  • And, of course, we can't forget the pledge of many celebrities to act more responsibly now that President Obama is in office. Of course, you should have been acting this way all along if you really meant it...

The best example of this type of "useless celebrity" behavior, at least this week, is the Oscars. The ceremony seems to be a magnet for lame manifestos (really, whose idea was it to give Bill Maher a bully platform for his anti-religion statements?). Sean Penn had his screed written well before he accepted Mickey Rourke's award. (Disclaimer: I've seen neither Milk nor The Wrestler; in fact, I've seen nothing nominated for pretty much anything at this year's ceremony, but I guessed the Academy would give the award to Mr. Penn due to the obvious political statement.) Past years have shown similar types of rants; for example...eh, never mind, I'm not giving Michael Moore a link.

Enjoy your awards and your fame, you guys. Just don't expect me to fall in lockstep with you because of them.