IN a world often too glum, in a world where scepticism is increasingly a plausible reaction to nearly any suggestion, we use escapism as a refuge. We use it as a safety valve so we might not, as Col Brandon threatened in Sense and Sensibility, run mad.
We, very sensibly, occasionally wrap ourselves in fantasy so the grey, mundane day-to-day might not defeat us. We embrace this curative so enthusiastically that sometimes it’s hard to winnow the significant from the inane. This dependency has, with the collusion of social media, created a caste that would not have been recognised by Col Brandon when Jane Austen finished her razor sharp classic of human foible just over 200 years ago.
We have created the idea of celebrity and placed celebrities, no matter how vapid, on such high pedestals that historians may be as confused about them as we are today about the seven worlds, all close in size to Earth, identified around a small, faint star in the constellation Aquarius.
Tomorrow marks the Easter Sunday for the holy week of the West’s celebrity culture. It will culminate at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. It may seem curmudgeonly to even suggest, but this jamboree is little more than one of the world’s glitziest marketing fests where one thing is celebrated but something else entirely is the objective. Just like the Olympics and the World Cup, it is an opportunity to sell product, to put bums on seats, dressed up as a meritocratic celebration.
Even if that assessment is not true, every single year consider this: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the world’s highest-paid actor. He was paid €60m last year. Earning capacity is the ultimate endorsement offered by industry and that “The Rock” should be in the blue riband position says all that needs to be said. He, more a Charolais bull than an artist, may never be nominated much less win an Oscar but he is, like it or not, the current top gun in the film industry. It is appropriate though that such a contrived body, such a blowhard, should dominate Hollywood during the early days of the Trump presidency. Trump’s victory may well provoke some middle-ranking actor who earns €10m a film to make a teared-up speech and assure us we’re all in this together, that we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Indeed.
There is an air of censoriousness about the Oscars too. It seems almost as prurient as the Rose of Tralee. Non-white actors have not been as recognised as their achievements deserve, neither have those who celebrate their sexuality outside of what was once described as conventional norms. Indeed, “The Rock” may have a better chance of winning an Oscar than a gay black woman. And if the Oscars are so crass why does any of this matter? Today we struggle to protect our children from the darkest forces on the internet but we do not teach them to differentiate between the faux violence of Hollywood and the real thing, we do not teach them to recognise the sterile hollowness of celebrity. It’s time we did or, in time, the reality TV ham now know as President Trump may seem a Caesar.
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