The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

The celebrity’s burden — embracing the cause of the tragically displaced

Take up the celebrity’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine (think of the PR)
And bid the sickness cease (while touching a leprous child – PR dynamite);
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Say you don’t like talking about your charidee work (humility is good PR).

It’s not easy being one of the beautiful people. At least, I assume it isn’t easy. Being a thirty-year-old wastrel with a widow’s peak, flaring nostrils, and a forehead that is as high as the Sears Tower I am not blessed with the attributes (smooth skin, lustrous hair, perfect teeth, B.O. that smells of fresh honeysuckles, etc.) that mark someone out as being one of the beautiful ones.

Occasionally, I have been fortunate enough to bask in the toasty warmth of my celebrity betters. I think back fondly, even a little misty-eyed, to one of my first office jobs where I was so privileged to regularly meet famous British comedians, such as David Baddiel, who I was once instructed to find some paracetamol for. Poor David was suffering from a headache; now of course this was a matter of great concern, as being a celebrity David feels things on a fundamentally deeper level than us mere mundanes. What might be just a little headache to my mundane self, would to a person of David Baddiel’s calibre be torture, of which the likes of myself couldn’t possibly hope to comprehend. It was why I tacitly understood why he was unable to meet my eye line or say thank you when I handed him the paracetamol along with a glass of water. 

Of course, David Baddiel isn’t A-list — you can tell by the fact that his B.O. is more acrid than sweet. With a true A-list celeb (Johnny Depp, Angeline Jolie, Jude LawFrank Worthington) you have someone very special indeed, which is precisely why our society feels compelled to treasure them. An A-list celebrity cannot only feel their emotions more deeply than we can ours, they can also feel our emotions more deeply than we could ever possibly hope to. They are almost bursting with empathy. They hear our cries, our laughter; our joys, our disappointments. It is this skill, this understanding of humanity, that allows them to thrive and succeed as musicians, actors, etc. They are like idiot savants of the human condition.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, we have always been surrounded by extra special celebrities with wonderful powers, from Jesus’s curing of the lepers to the royal touch of medieval monarchs that could cure the mundanes of their scrofula. Is it any wonder then that our modern messiahs and sovereigns now head out to help create a better world? From war-torn countries, to environmental matters, we need celebrities to bring things to our attention and to help frame the debate. You have to think like Max Clifford. It’s no good just telling me about a child wounded by a landmine, but tell me that the child wounded by a landmine is being adopted by Brad and Angelina — now we’re talking. And who wants to listen to some expert tell you about what’s happening with famine brought about by the drought in East Africa when we have Geri Halliwell. Sure, he can give you facts, but he can’t make you feel it like Ginger Spice can. 

The cynical and snarky in the world, the hipster Gawker readers, will try to put a negative spin on this behaviour. They will try to convince you that it’s all just PR — that very often these celebrities are a distraction from the real issues, that they often aren’t informed enough, that celebrity activism is with a few exceptions a sad reflection on our increasingly tabloid world and can be damaging for charities concerned with less “sexy” causes such as depression and Alzheimer’s that have less appeal from the vantage of a celeb’s core messaging. This is, of course, shameful thinking. We need our celebrities to show us the way. Before Princess Diana posed dolefully in a flak jacket in Angola I had no idea about landmines. Now I have an opinion — I’m against.

The UN, and I am sure Ban Ki-moon would agree with me, could not function as it currently does without the hard, selfless work of Geri Halliwell in her role as a goodwill ambassador. If this was a truly sane world the UN Security Council would consist of Geri Halliwell, Sting, Brangelina, Jude Law, Mia Farrow, Roger Moore, Tom Cruise and Lenny Henry. Instead, we go and give Nobel Peace Prizes to the likes of Muhammad Yunus — as if he’s won any MTV Video Music Awards.   

 STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Contemporary Displaced Writing post.

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Img: Elisabet av Thüringen (Wikimedia Commons)

6 responses to “The celebrity’s burden — embracing the cause of the tragically displaced

  1. Aisha Ashraf November 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

    A very amusing post. I’m definitely in the Gawker camp here! I think most celebrities are advised to “get on board” with a popular cause, as it helps to “humanise” them – obviously they reach a point of becoming just too Godlike and we can no longer relate to them, so demonstrating their love and concern for their fellow man brings them back within the realms of tangible, mortal understanding. Even better if they can “fess up” to having some excruciating problem of their own which they are fighting to overcome – this can blind us to their piles of money (apparently) and make us think they are just like us.
    Some celebrities quietly go about supporting a cause or charity, in a “behind the scenes” way, using their influence and contacts to make things happen. They are not looking to strengthen their public profile. They are the ones with a true sense of altruism.

    • Spinster November 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      And those are the ones whom I admire. Too bad that they’re very few & very far between.

      “Some celebrities quietly go about supporting a cause or charity, in a “behind the scenes” way, using their influence and contacts to make things happen. They are not looking to strengthen their public profile. They are the ones with a true sense of altruism.”

  2. Aisha Ashraf November 22, 2011 at 9:56 am

    BTW, are you following the Leveson Inquiry in the UK?

  3. awindram November 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks Aisha! I’ve only been following the inquiry via occassional articles in the Guardian or Telegraph or friend’s twitter comments. I do mean to look more into Hugh Grant’s appearance, his initial undercover work for the New Statesman was fascinating stuff.

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