The Charity of Stars

by Richard Brookhiser

I read a blog account of Ashley Judd on her South African AIDS trip, and it made me slightly pro-Ashley Judd. The blogger shows her to be somewhat difficult and ignorant (I say somewhat because many stars–and writers–are much, much worse).

But she is not paid to be complaisant or learned. She is paid to hit her mark. That is also why the charity engages her (rather than, say, Rick Brookhiser). That may even be why the South Africans were happy to see her. Why else did Namibia turn itself inside out for Brangelina? Ashley Judd is a lesser star, but surely they at least know she is one, and derive gratification from that.

John Adams told Thomas Jefferson that the five pillars of aristocracy are birth, wealth, beauty, genius and virtues. The stars of Hollywood have beauty, and genius of a kind. Hence they are aristocrats in a media age.

You could say that Ashley Judd’s trip was morally mercenary because she no doubt did it, at least in part, to be thought well of, and to think well of herself. But if virtue were stripped of such poor aids, how little virtue there would be in the world.

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