Hollywood: Land of opulent wealth and angelic do-gooders looking to make a change for the better in the world. (Wait. What?) While not all celebrities are as good and as pure as Oprah when it comes to philanthropic endeavors, every one has their merits. Celine Dion started a foundation for research in cystic fibrosis, Paul McCartney started a charity organization to stop the planting of landmines and to facilitate their removal, and year after year Arnold Schwarzenegger supports the Special Olympics.
Bottomless pockets don’t automatically entail bottomless hearts – I get it. But the fact of the matter is that money is being sent to the sources it needs to be sent, and it’s being spent in the ways in which it needs to be spent.
Tiger Woods has been named the fifth largest philanthropist in Hollywood, having donated a staggering $9.5 million to the Tiger Woods Foundation. There’s no getting around the fact that organizations are desperate for money, no matter whose wallet it comes from (or the bad press attached to their celebrity donor).
If Sandra Bullock can afford to donate $1 million to relief causes after 9/11 and another $1 million three years later for the Indonesian tsunami, are we seriously going to fault her for it? Really?
We can play the holier-than-thou game, claiming that our money is worth more because we can’t afford it as much. Guess what? It’s not true. That organization you’re supporting? They’d rather have an easy $1 million from a celebrity than a hard-earned $20 from you. Can you blame them? I sure as hell can’t.
Oh wait, apparently Chuck Klosterman can. In his 2009 book of essays, he proclaims: “Because of course charity is wonderful, [but] there’s something perverse about public altruism; it always feels like the individual is trying to purchase ‘good person’ status. … Oprah is doing something good, but not necessarily for the motive of goodness. And the motive matters.” Um, what? Shut up. Tell that to the person whose child is dying of thirst, or the person whose mother’s leg was blown off by a land mine. I dare you. “Motive matters” my ass, Chuckie. It may matter to those of us sitting in our comfy beds watching “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes (go season 6!), but it doesn’t matter to people in the thick of a crisis.
We can get all caught up thinking about the ethical ramifications of celebrities’ actions, but do you really think the people receiving aid care if Oprah gets awesome press for Oprah’s Angel Network if it allows their little girl to have an education? (Psst…I have news for you. The answer is no, they don’t).
Celebrities wield influence. Whether you agree with the idolization of celebrities or not, you can’t change that fact. If Angelina Jolie’s name is stamped on an organization and Bono holds a concert for it, that organization is going to gain more attention, and they’re going to get more donations.
Celebrities are people. As much as we might forget it, they are, and some of them are very good people that exert power and influence to get more things done than any of us combined ever will. Some of them aren’t such good people, and they hold charity banquets to get a pat on the back and told how great they are. In the end, that money is still being sent, and those people are still being helped. Whether you embrace it or reject it, respect it.