The danger celebrities face when expressing their social and political position is that they often leave themselves open to hypocrisy.
Often it is entertainers who find themselves in the most awkward positions, since their million dollar pay packets and lifestyles can clash with their ideologies.
Here in Australia, uproar began over an advertisement supporting a new carbon tax, which will see the Government taxing households (at around $10 a week) and big polluting companies.
In the “Say Yes!” ad, Australian actors Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton express their support for the tax. That did not bode well for many, who pointed to the multi-million dollar income of Blanchett as an example of one hip pocket which will not be feeling the pinch when the tax man comes-a-calling.
More important is the fact that both Blanchett and Caton have (and still do) represent the very same polluters they are rallying against: Blanchett is the face of Audi’s line of luxury cars, and Caton narrates commercials for McDonalds, which uses Australian beef, which (according to climate scientists) come from cows whose gasses contribute to global warming.
They are only a recent example of celebrities contradicting their social/political ideologies through their business ventures. The mega rock band U2 have long been associated with progressive political and social causes, and the recent trend of environmental activism has placed the Irish band in a sensitive position, for while they may preach for change in mankind’s treatment of nature, their recent touring schedule has seen them rack up more air miles and waste more electricity than ever before.
Then there is Sean Penn and Oliver Stone, who have gone down the “Hanoi Jane” route and literally sold their credibility in their allegiance to Venezuelan socialist dictator Hugo Chavez, while revelling in the very same capitalist ethos (the earning of millions as a part of the entertainment industry) which their communist hero objects to.
Yet never fear true believers! Redemption is at hand, for I give you the “Entertainers Salary Cap”, where the maximum of $1 million will be available for all multi-million dollar earning entertainers (actors, musicians, sports stars), while the rest is distributed to those who deserve it.
How does it work? Glad you asked. Let’s take the “salary” which none other than Cate Blanchett took home from her latest movie, Hanna. $7 million was the fee paid to Blanchett for her work. Under this Entertainers Salary Cap, Blanchett will only be allowed to take home $1 million, while the remaining $6 million will go straight to those who actually need it: medical research, civil servants, teachers and doctors, and yes, investment in environmental research and projects to off-set carbon pollution.
A soccer player receives a multi-million dollar endorsement deal? Then the majority of that money will be re-distributed to the same people who helped stitch together their Nike’s in sweet shops. A pop star has a #1 hit record? Well that revenue stream will not be used on Cristal and stretch limo hummers, but will instead be used to keep the homeless off the street and plant a field of trees to offset that hummer’s pollution.
The gap between rich and poor is wide. Many (rightfully) point to CEO’s and magnates as an example of greed in extreme. Yet don’t forget that the actor, the musician, and the sportsman are also a member of that financially well off clique.
The difference is the hypocrisy which the celebrity operates under. Sean Penn may run a refugee centre in Haiti, yet he still looks forward to his mansion in the Hollywood Hills and the multi-million dollar acting projects awaiting his participation, while others continue to suffer after his well publicised and fleeting contributions are over.
“Put your money where your mouth is” is an old adage suitable for those who claim to care, yet still accept the money and rewards their profession offers them.
Perhaps the question should be asked to Ms. Blanchett: Who you “say yes” to offering the majority of your excessive salary to the Carbon tax? Didn’t think so.