Celebrity is a form of power and a kind of currency, a means of exchange. We need to remember this whenever we observe a film star on the way up, or a boxer on the way down, endorsing some cause with a high fashion quotient and potential for media attention.
The media use celebrities to sell units, but it also gives back to the celebrity a kind of credit for cooperation with its agendas. To exploit celebrity ideologically is, for the star, a form of saving, enabling him or her to store up credits for a rainy day. That is why celebrities line up to support things like abortion and gay marriage: by doing so they can prolong their years of exposure to public attention.
Celebrity is therefore an enormous responsibility, like possessing excessive physical strength or driving an extra-powerful car. It has the potential to pose danger for others. It is not something weightless or costless.
And this is why I have felt so disgusted at the parade of celebrities – domestic and international – lining up on the Repeal side of the Irish referendum campaign. Repeal means “abort”, which means “kill”. Yet to watch these people cavorting around in the course of photo opportunities – grinning inanely and making faces for the camera – you would think they were participating in a fundraiser for their local children’s home. Instead, they add the weight of their fame and influence to an already over-subscribed initiative to destroy the rights of children at their most vulnerable stage of existence. This is shameful beyond words.
And there is nothing brave about it. On the contrary, it is groupthink incarnate: weak people ganging up to make each other look good, at the expense of the weakest of all.
Three weeks ago, a clutch of minor male celebrities – pretty much all domestic to Ireland – came out under the banner Men4Yes. There were rugby players and pundits, television presenters, a lightweight boxer, an unfunny comedian. The following week, the heavy-hitters came out in support of Amnesty’s pro-Repeal campaign: U2, Liam Neeson, Saoirse Ronan etc.
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