Our star-spangled manner

Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent.
— Emily Dickinson

Meryl Streep stood up at the Golden Globe Awards and made a speech about Donald Trump, etc. and the world anointed her. Oprah did the same. Same result.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could eclipse the millions upon millions upon millions of dollars spent on highfalutin hairdos and unreachable jewels and garish garb and red carpet roll-outs and holier-than-thou "thespians" with galactic egos in order to illustrate and elevate the quiet commitment of true protagonists such as the inner city teacher, the environmental warrior, the health pioneer and the uncompromising journalist?

Yes, there are celebrities who give and who advocate with boundless passion, such as Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley. But, self-congratulatory super-spectacles that are TV and movie award ceremonies are apt reminders of how inside out we are about the role of pretenders. While the lion's share of small and big screen stars lives in gilded penthouses surrounded by colossal spotlights, those who actually mend societies with unbridled blood, sweat and tears do so without trophies and publicity hives... and unbridled financial backing.

Movies and television shows can be pure magic, and many should be relished as the storytelling gems that they are. All of us sure as hell need to escape and laugh and cry and wonder why. But when comic book heroes and medieval fantasy figures and cops and robbers and forensic specialists and fakers of all shapes and sizes are the folks we know best and fawn over most, what does that say about us? Why do celebrity endorsements satiate us? Why do we know John Krasinski and not John Melia? Why do we know Judith Dench and not Judith Lichtman? Why do we know Blake Shelton and not Blake Mycoskie? Why is a rich man-baby turned reality star strapped with nuclear codes?

As we distract ourselves with copious amounts of what have become relatively mindless adventure, action and comedy programming (the three leading genres) - and lest we forget the boundless reality TV and video gaming - is it any small wonder why the stupid, rich kid was able to pretend all the way to the ultimate theater at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Do we care that WWF barbarian turned world's highest paid movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, was paid over $65 million last year for beating up bad guys? Do we care that 26-year-old Jennifer Lawrence got a cool $45 million in 2016 for playing around in a sound stage spaceship and moonlighting as a mutant shapeshifter? Do we care that their combined $110 million in salaries could feed millions of kids who rarely have access to food?

When it comes to who walks away with Best Picture, 40 million of us fire up the popcorn and wait with baited breath for The Rock or Jennifer Lawrence or George Clooney to tell Ryan Seacrest who assembled they're $50,000 wardrobe and how excited they are to shower each other with praise for pretending to be people they never met or that are not real to begin with, while John Melia quietly provides aid to veterans whose limbs were obliterated in battle or Judith Lichtman tirelessly advocates for women's rights or Blake Mycoskie travels the globe to put shoes on the tattered feet of impoverished children.

Wouldn't it be nice if, someday, we roll out a red carpet for people who don't advocate for themselves?