"Part of the problem lies in semantics," writes Thompson.
Words such as "charity", "cause", "development", "human rights" and "activism" can all become skewed with misuse. At best, overuse renders them banal. But at worst they become counterproductive. Say "human rights activist" and increasing numbers of people will just slam their hands over their ears. There is causeweariness even before you prefix "human rights activist" with that extra soul-sapping tag "celebrity."
Thompson continues: "The question I dread most is: 'What's your favourite charity?' You might as well ask: 'What's your favourite war zone?' To talk about charity in this way compartmentalises it, separates it from the day-to-day stuff of life."
[Emma Thompson is a Greenpeace activist, a patron of the Refugee Council and wrote her Times of London essay as an aside to her work for the Helen Bamber Foundation, a human rights organization which supports survivors of gross human rights violations.]
But let's be honest: It's a double-edged sword, isn't it? Being a Celebrity with a Cause? If you're an actor, people are interested in you for your ability to portray a character and speak lines someone else has written. If you're a singer, people want to hear you sing. They don't necessarily want to hear about your dedication to cancer research or impoverished children. Entertainment, after all, is an escape.
And yet: With money and power and influence, celebrities have the ability to make an impact for a campaign or cause. Sometimes "awareness" is part of the battle. But what are the ultimate results? Does it work? Does the fact George Clooney and Ryan Gosing care about what's going on in Darfur — or Mia Farrow's hunger strike — affect your feelings about Darfur? spoken Does Khloe Kardashian stripping for PETA make you less likely to wear fur? And what about when Naomi Campbell posed nude for PETA, and then was seen in stuff like this?
The Power of Youth And the Winnable Battle Against Global Hunger [Huffington Post]
Emma Thompson: Conscience, Celebrity And Me [Times of London]
Do-Gooder Celebs Can Aid -and Irritate [Newser]