Let’s call a spade a spade. When people speak to the insufferability of Hollywood stars and the so-called “liberal agenda” of the celebrity machine, they’re first and foremost speaking to one Sean Penn, or at least the archetype that he embodies.
Sean Penn has long been a crusader for countless causes and undertakings, presumably (and probably) with the interests of the greater good at heart. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. In fact, it’s wonderful. And admirable.
However, many malign the star for using most every opportunity, no matter how far removed from the context of the cause at hand, to champion these things, and just generally guilt the public for not allocating the same time and energy that he has to crusade for these causes. Seeing as most of the world doesn’t enjoy a successful actor’s schedule, nor a successful actor’s salary to champion these causes, it’s no surprise that, upon the umpteenth guilt trip and plea, the public begins to roll its collective eyes and just wish he would give it a rest. Some times we just want to have a smoothie and screw around, ya know?
The impetus for this piece stems from the most recent plea/outburst/tantrum/call to arms that Penn unleashed upon the world from a seemingly lofty perch at the Cannes Film Festival on a French beach.
Speaking to the groundswell of support for Haiti follwing the catastrophic earthquake the country endured in 2010, Penn offered up this little nugget to someone with a microphone point in his general direction:
It’s not only celebrities that went (to Haiti) to help only for a day. It’s the whole fucking world. It’s the entire media. It’s all of you.
Sean Penn’s upset with the whole fucking world. It must be a day that ends in “y.”
Let me say: He’s got a point. In the world of social media, Darfur t-shirts, and pop-up telethons, there’s a tendency to get swept up in a cause, then forget about it as the fervor surrounding it dies down. However, the same phenomena that lead people to drop the cause are often the same ones that lead people to engage in it in the first place.
So rather, than saying, “Thanks for the outpouring of charity and effort following the this horrible event,” Penn takes us (I’m a part of the whole world too, you know) to task for not giving more.
And that’s pretty fucking obnoxious. We can’t travel to Tehran, we can’t find our way into Cuba to interview Fidel Castro’s brother, and we can’t get on planes to witness rebuilding efforts firsthand.
It’s absolutely terrific that he has the ability and inclination to do exactly those things, but being a dick about it seems to be counterproductive. There’s a reason that charities don’t guilt us into contributing our time and money. Sure, those Sarah McLachlan puppy ads do that, but those are more closely with tearing up and changing the channel than they are with successfully soliciting donations. All the evidence I have that speaks to that point is anecdotal, but it’s still staggering.
If he keeps up this “tough love” marketing approach to Haiti and his other causes, there’s a decent chance that he’s going to be doing them a disservice.
He’s right. I haven’t heard much about Haiti recently. But when the only thing I do hear about it is Sean Penn bitching at me and humanity from Cannes, that doesn’t exactly endear me to the cause, regardless of how much suffering and strife exists there today.
You’re probably doing great things for lots of different causes, Sean. But you’re not exactly a people person, so make your mark by continuing to do great things, and not berating us for not taking action, whatever our obstacles to it may be.
Oh, and I’m really looking forward to Gangster Squad. Shit looks tight.