Oscar on the frontlines: Celebrities punk-out

What is a celebrity? Webster’s Dictionary says that a celebrity is a “famous or well-publicized person.” Yeah, thanks, Webster, but that definition needs an update. Nowadays, the word celebrity goes beyond “just any old person on T.V. or in the movies.”

Some suggestions for a Webster’s refinement include: “person behaving badly in the public eye again and again and again,” “person who thinks they are a hell of a lot more important than they actually are” or, my favorite, “person responsible for entertaining the masses every second of every day in all aspects of their lives, private or public.”

The bottomline, I expect my celebrities to do something. and to do it big, which is why the 75th annual Academy Awards was a disappointment.

Pre-Oscars, the debate surfaced about whether or not notoriously liberal actors, writers and directors would use the show as a forum for political rhetoric (i.e. make pointed statements about the current conflict, or, as Bush would say, Operation Iraqi Freedom). Several high profile nominees, such as Chicago director Rob Marshall, publicly announced their plans to denounce the Iraqi conflict.

However, the moviestars forgot that “celebrity” and “controversy” go hand in hand, because the little that actually did transpire on Oscar night consisted mostly of pretty pins, veiled statements, oblique references and some carefully placed peace signs.

Interestingly enough, the most controversial statement of the night came from director Michael Moore, a decided non-celebrity. Moore, whose “Bowling for Columbine” won for “Best Documentary Feature,”said “we are against the war, Mr. Bush. Shame on, you.” He also called Bush a “fictitious president” who was sending the country to war for “fictitious reasons.”

Some may say that the display (or lack thereof) was discreet and respectable. I say it’s half-assed. Celebrities, scared to lose their goodstanding in the world of little gold statuettes, struggled to make statements while pretending to not make statements. They sighed and frowned and cried and made reference to the “turmoil in the world,” without taking any sort of clear stance on it.

According to the New York Times, the academy asked the nominees and presenters to refrain from the anti-war rhetoric.

This is all fine and good, I suppose, but when did the celebrities loose their balls? What kept Susan Sarandon, a usually a flaming liberal, subdued and speechless?

What in the word possessed the equally flaming Barbara Streisand to say that she is proud “to live in a country that guarantees every citzen, including the artists,the right to say or sing what they believe in,” when she was so obviously complying with the rule to not say anything.

Here’s a rule: You are celebrities. You are privy to a forum that the we little folk are not privy to. Use it.

You are also obligated by the rule of celebrity to be larger than life. Remember, folks, “Subdued celebrity” is an oxymoron. Jump up on your soap boxes. Wave your peace signs frivolously, and most importantly, make sure you say something.