Sunday, January 31, 2016

SAG Awards Stalking

This past Saturday, a friend and I decided to go watch the red carpet arrivals at the Shrine Auditorium for the 22nd annual Screen Actor's Guild Awards.  I had done this two years ago and had the memorable experience of making it on CNN (see video at bottom) when Julia Roberts came to say hi to us and some eager people next to me toppled the barricade, nearly knocking out the A-Lister.  But that's another story.  This experience was just as memorable, but for a different reason.

We staked out our position across from the carpet at about 2:15 pm.  The arrivals began at 3:00 pm. This year, I was there not to fawn over my favorite celebrities and scream their names, but rather because this was a world I would like to someday be a part of as a filmmaker and with it happening right across the street, I could not pass up the opportunity.  In fact, I did not take a single picture and did not yell a single name (although I did return a wave from Leonardo Di Caprio because how could you not?).  It soon became loud, and I mean very loud, and clear that some people were there for a reason that had nothing to do with seeing stars.  Standing behind us were two men holding giant signs that said "ASK ME WHY YOU DESERVE HELL" and other variations.  These are the people you usually see outside the Coliseum on game days.  They began yelling at both the spectators and the arrivals, telling us we were all going to hell for worshiping celebrities instead of God.  My friend and I stood by, extremely and increasingly uncomfortable because we are Christians, but don't believe in scaring people into following God.  It pained us to see this false image of God being screamed at people.  Do they really think their yelling is an effective way of getting people to convert?

Then I began feeling a little guilty for being there.  Was I participating in the worshiping of celebrities who afterall, are only human like the rest of us?  Why do we put these people up on a pedestal and what does it say about our culture that we praise celebrities more than people like Malala Yousafzai who are fearless heroes who stand up to evil and preach love?  As an observer and admittedly sometimes participant in this phenomenon, attending red carpet events such as the SAG Awards reminds me of the power both celebrities and the medium of film and television has to influence people. That is why I want to work in this industry; to use the spotlight celebrities and films are placed in to inspire, uplift, and give hope.  There is nothing wrong with admiring celebrities for their talent and many of them use their positions in the spotlight for good.  However, as that barrier collapsed between myself and Julia Roberts two years ago, I am reminded that the barriers we construct between ourselves and celebrities are just that, human or societal constructions.  We should not strive to be like the Julia Roberts and Margo Channings of the world, but rather like the Malalas (whose story makes for quite an entertaining film).

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