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A-list actors hug polar bears; world is saved (not really)

I find celebrities just a little presumptuous. Not all celebrities, really – mostly just the A-list actors. What bothers me isn’t their posturing, their preening, or their living in giant houses that God could not have possibly intended when He cobbled together our mudball of a planet.

After all, opulence is part of the job. Being an A-list actor involves just as much driving cool cars, laying around on expensive beaches, and panty-flashing as it does acting in movies, some of which are occasionally required to be good.

Good or not, the public loves seeing the same easily recognizable faces on the big screen. Why this is, I couldn’t really say, but I can say that most big studio movies in this day and age do not star actors.

Actors are people who convincingly and dramatically pretend to be other people. This sort of pretence, however, is impossible to a large degree for most A-list celebrities. Rather, they play themselves pretending to be other people. When all is said and done, celebrities are paid to be celebrities.

And that is fine. It makes me jealous, to some degree, that other people my age or younger are being paid vast sums of money for just being the sort of people that are paid vast sums of money. After all, I’ve never been paid simply for being myself (1).

While with enough therapy (I.e. drinking and befriending genuinely ugly people), I have learned to get past most of it, I’m still not entirely Zen on this subject. There are a few things about celebrities that get under my skin. Two, really.

The first is more a transgression grounded in the sort of blithe arrogance that lets somebody feel as though they’re actually earning their living when they’re getting paid millions to phone in lines for a buddy cop movie whose plot centers around the kooky black guy or Jackie Chan’s ability to act like a racist sidewalk caricature of himself (2).

You see, what gets to me is that actors believe themselves to be vastly more intelligent and informed than the average moron that buys tickets to their Oscar-whoring, box office train-wrecks that take the great tragedies or social dilemmas of the last century and kick them in the teeth.

Celebrities believe themselves to be so intelligent, in fact, that they can tell the general public what’s right and what’s wrong. They can tell us about global warming, or the genocide going on in that country that they just heard about, or even who to vote for in the upcoming election.

But let’s go through a brief list of the qualifications of your average A-list celebrity when it comes to advising the drooling masses:

– Celebrities have a deep and innate understanding of the concerns of the working class: in fact, sometimes they have to pretend to be working class in their films! They can draw on these experiences in order to figure out what the common man needs. This is why most celebrities believe that we need a president will definitely support kneeling in the rain while shouting at the heavens, or jumping motorcycles over exploding tractor trailers.

– Celebrities believe themselves to have a thorough grasp of economic policies and principles, due to the few years they spent banging coeds in college before dropping out to star in movies and bang their assistants instead. So don’t be surprised when celebrities use phrases like “cost,” “benefit,” or “Abraham Lincoln” as if they actually know what they are talking about. You see, celebrities found success by “listening to their hearts” and “following their dreams.” All we need to do now is consult their hearts on how to handle a fluctuating economy being rocked by gas shortages and massive bailouts due to crises in multiple, related industries. Or maybe we could have them dream up a way that any president could realistically control the ripple effects of paying billions of dollars worth of bailouts.

– Celebrities read stuff on the internet. So of course they know what they’re talking about.

Considering the number of celebrities that have come out to endorse a candidate during this election, or tell us all that the earth heating up is “bad,” I can only assume that most people believe them to be credible sources of information. I, however, reach a slightly different conclusion:

– Celebrities need to stick to their unrealistic romantic comedies where the invariably selfish lead characters eventually find love instead of getting pushed in front of a bus by their exasperated gay best friends.

– Celebrities are mostly qualified to say is that they think their new movie is great, so please go see it.

Of course, they are only half of the equation; after all, when celebrities speak, the general public listens. When and how did this happen? When did actors, whose only marketable skills involve memorization and the removal of shirts, become the outspoken sentinels of the moral high ground?

Now, please understand: I don’t usually disagree with celebrities. I tend to fall in line with proposals to stop things all land masses from sinking and all polar bears from drowning (3). I can even forget, for hours at a time, that celebrities generally hop on whatever bandwagon happens to be popular at the time for the sake of public image.

It simply bothers me that celebrities believe themselves to be more intelligent and worth listening to than the average guy at the water cooler. Of course, it bothers me even more that we, as a society, tacitly agree with them. Just remember, these folks telling you to “rock the vote” or “hug that leopard seal” are the same ones that gave us the “Miami Vice” movie and “Norbit.”

They might have the public’s best interests at heart, and they might even be right about certain things. But they’re also conceited, naïve artistes whose profession is to pretend and entertain (4).

The other thing that bothers me about celebrities makes wonder how fundamentally different their day-to-day life experiences must be from my own. Now, I consider myself to be a feet-on-the-ground kind of guy. Sure, sometimes I sit by an anthill and shout imperial decrees at worker ants for a few hours because I’ve declared myself as their emperor and their queen as my slave-bride (5).

And yeah, maybe one day, I would like to own a pony that turns into a boat. But overall, I keep my head out of the clouds. A-list celebrities, however, do not.

They have no concept of what they represent to the general public. So it makes me a little incredulous when celebrities go through some personal trauma and ask the public to “respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

What celebrities don’t seem to understand is that they are not normal people. Rather, they receive exaggerated courtesies and privileges in return for sacrificing ~95% of their privacy. Being a celebrity means being famous, and being famous means being in the public eye. Constantly. Because the public eye is intrusive, unblinking, obsessive, bloodshot, and it sees the ring when you’re trying to smuggle it to Mordor.

When celebrities ask for their privacy, they seem to forget that their fame is based in large part on people’s willingness to follow, to glorify, and to obsess. The mere fact that they need representatives just to notify the public about their break-ups should tip celebrities off that the public won’t suddenly leave them alone just because they got caught being pedophiles or electrophiles (6) or whatever else.

The voyeuristic social collective is an impartial beast, and it savors the bad just as much as the good. Maybe even more so, because when the denizens of the internet aren’t anonymously posting bizarre Matrix/Gilmore Girls slash fiction, they practically sweat schadenfreude.

I think that both of these problems – the galling socio-political endorsements and the futile, naïve requests for privacy – stem from a fundamental misunderstanding on the celebrity’s part. I gather that most A-list celebrities believe themselves to be genuinely special individuals whose sheer wealth of talents, prowess, and panache have allowed them to rise to the top. Their popularity and the adulation they receive are part of the natural response that people would have to individuals as superior as themselves. So it’s their duty to tell the rest of the herd what direction to take.

The truth, as I see it, is that celebrities are special only in that they are lucky. Mostly, they are lucky that society has developed in such a way that celebrities are extravagantly adored. They are meant to live lives that are fabulously different from our own, lives that we can experience vicariously – because, through some grand quirk of human nature, that is what people want.

Think about it – it’s easy enough to enjoy a song performed by somebody else. It isn’t entirely necessary to give them a golden Ferrari that runs on caviar and blended dodo eggs – but we give it to them anyway.

This is due to the strange, debatably flawed shape of the collective social psyche. The very fact that celebrities exist at all in society is a symptom.

It’s also almost certainly one of the reasons that the aliens will lay waste to our planet when they finally arrive.

1) In fact, I would say that it has been rather costly. And – considering the indecency fines, violated probations, tears, destroyed birthday cakes, and the two security guards that tackled me into a fountain – I believe that the proprietors of the local mall would agree with me.

2) Of course, it doesn’t particularly bother me that actors get paid so much for so little. We have, as a society, proved that we are willing to pay them for that particular service. They have a great racket going.

3) Granted, this is only because I a) cannot afford a jet ski, and b) still harbor dreams of saddling and riding a polar bear one day.

4) And half the time, while entertaining, they still have to produce something “highbrow“ – but they just ending up decreasing the I.Q.s and fertility of their entire audience. In fact, after watching Titanic, the highest grossing film of all time, my testicles actually started waving small white flags and quoting the Geneva Convention’s rules about the torture of prisoners.

5) I need to reread Machiavelli. Last time, the peasants crawled up my pant leg and staged an uprising. It was quickly crushed. However, between my warrior’s rage and the fact that I had been drinking Gatorade all day, I unleashed my stream of martial justice without thinking and destroyed my entire kingdom. Why did they force my hand?

6) Finally, my chemistry minor becomes useful.


Joe Sapien

Joe Sapien is a regular columnist. He is currently floundering through grad school and running up debt. He never got to be a bully as a child, but he would have been pretty good at it.