Fiona McCade: Celebrity politics creates a bad smell

Fiona McCade
Fiona McCade
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POOR Brad Pitt. One day, he’s the coolest man on the planet. The next, after accepting $7 million (£4.4m) to make the worst advert in history, he’s a joke. His ad for Chanel No5 is unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

It manages to be deadly dull, excruciatingly pretentious and utterly hilarious, all at the same time. It’s enough to put the most dedicated fashionista off Chanel; heck, it’s enough to put you off perfume.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Picture: Getty

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Picture: Getty

I reckon Chanel can survive Brad – it survived Keira Knightley, after all – because it has time to recover. However, in the world of politics, candidates have an extremely short shelf-life, so the celebrities they allow to endorse them should be chosen very carefully.

I’m glad I’m not a voter in the upcoming elections in the United States because, although I could never vote for Mitt Romney, the stars lining up behind Barack Obama would be enough to make me pray for a hanging chad.

Obama has Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and some lass I’ve never heard of (um…Kerry Washington, anybody?), earnestly campaigning on his behalf. In their television advert, they tell us that they “want to talk to you about women”, but they don’t, really. They just want to talk to women about why they shouldn’t vote for Romney. Trouble is, by the time they’ve finished preaching (Johansson), posturing (Longoria) and glaring (Washington), you’re left wondering if Obama’s really so great; after all, look at the company he keeps.

I quite like Obama, but I don’t like his acolytes. His celebrity fans are a huge turn off. However, even though I prefer Clint Eastwood to Scarlett Johansson, I still wouldn’t vote for Romney just because Clint kindly suggested it.

Given how tarnished celebrity has become in recent years, is there anybody out there who is still swayed by the voting habits of their favourite stars?

If there is one thing that infuriates me more than Eva Longoria’s studied-sassy, professional-Latina “you go vote, girl!” persona, it’s the thought that politicians have so little respect for us, they think we’ll buy this stuff. If I were voting in this election, I’d want to hear about Obama’s vision and beliefs from the man himself. This coming vote is about nothing less than who leads the free world, but who does Obama’s team put up there to persuade us? The face of Mango, a Desperate Housewife and…um…Kerry Washington.

These endorsements are actually indictments of our society – proof that the powers-that-be have scant respect for the intellect, understanding, or concerns of the average voter. Having a celebrity back your cause can be so fraught with potential disaster, I’m surprised it still happens, but I suppose if politics is showbiz for ugly people, they can’t stop hoping that some of the glamour of the real thing will rub off on them.

I’m trying to think of one, truly effective collaboration between a famous person and a political party and, strangely enough, I’ve found it very close to home. I think the alliance between Sir Sean Connery and the SNP was genuinely successful, but Sir Sean seems to have taken a back seat of late, and I think I know why.

His purpose was to say: “You might not have done it before, but it’s OK to vote SNP. It’s not so weird. It’s not even dangerous. Look at me, supporting the SNP, and I’m not foaming at the mouth, or anything!” Now lots of ordinary, non-rabid people vote SNP, so he can go back to the Bahamas and put his feet up. Job done.

However, Sir Sean and the SNP are the exception, rather than the rule. Generally, famous people are best – and most safely – used for nice, safe, non-political, awareness-raising exercises, like Pele bringing an unexpected kudos to the world of erectile disfunction, or Robbie Williams reminding men to check for testicular cancer whenever they’re down there.

When it comes to getting a celebrity to speak for you, you have to be careful. If you’re popularising scrotum examination, they’re great; if you’re selling perfume, it can be hit or miss; but if you’re trying to get people to vote for you, it’s much safer to do the hard work yourself.