Angelina Jolie, who at this point is more known for being a “personality” than an actress, has forced the American masses (or at least the ones who still read The New York Times) to feel something with her January 27th Op-Ed piece, “A New Level of Refugee Suffering.” As the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie has been vocal on her opinions of refugee treatment in other countries for quite some time now, but never so publicly as she is in this particular expounding on the injustice taking place in Iraq.
And while it’s touching, heartrending and all of that to see how much Jolie cares and that she’s using her celebrity to spread the word about such atrocities as “a family of eight children. No parents. Father killed. Mother missing, most likely taken,” it’s more than somewhat disconcerting that the UN requires a famous person in order to generate mainstream interest.
And yet, it is commonly accepted that the most effective way to gain attention from Americans (the people with the money and the resources that can actually make a difference) is to dangle a famous person in front of them–this is also the principle behind putting Lindsay Lohan in a car insurance commercial. In this respect, “celebrity causes” often have a cringe-worthy effect. Although Jolie seems very genuine in her urging that “it is not enough to defend our values at home, in our newspapers and in our institutions. We also have to defend them in the refugee camps of the Middle East, and the ruined ghost towns of Syria,” Americans have a long way to go in understanding any culture beyond their own–which makes it difficult for them to help others.