The media buzz (including blogging, tumbling and retweeting, as well as Facebooking) around Newsweek magazine’s ridiculous cover story of film actor George Clooney (title: “On the ground with a new kind of statesman”) highlight the titilating; i.e. Clooney’s sexual conquests of “way too many chicks”). Too bad, since the piece is really about how Clooney has the access and time to jet off to be a presence in nations that may not need him. In January alone, he’s balanced the rigors surrounding the Academy Awards, hanging out on Mexican beaches with his Italian model/actress-of-the-moment, and giving face-time to South Sudanese. There he is in Sudan (above), method acting Marlow by the river of his destiny.
The writer of the piece, John Avlon, constructs a profile of Clooney as someone assured he can direct his star power for good, not evil. Avlon–who gushes exorbitantly about how Clooney is “decidedly a guy’s guy”–has to reference the prototype, our great Irishman/Vuitton-Peddler:
“‘Bono’s model really worked,” Clooney says. “There is more attention on celebrity than ever before–and there is a use for that besides selling products.” Stars like Brad Pitt (Katrina), Ben Affleck (Congo), and Sean Penn (Haiti) followed suit. “A lot of the young actors I see coming up in the industry are not just involved, but knowledgeable on a subject and then sharing that with fans,” says Clooney. No one’s just a “peace activist” anymore—they have a specialty.
We suppose it’s like deciding on a major in college.
So Clooney has “… begun to define a new role for himself: 21st century celebrity statesman.” And what spoils does that title bring him? We learn that Clooney “… has Sudanese rebel leaders on speed dial. He’s had AK-47s shoved in his chest. And when he’s on movie sets, he gets daily Sudan briefings via email.” Serious.
The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Clooney’s bunkmate in Chad, gets drafted to give an endorsement. Thankfully, there is some criticism from nameless people on the left and right (although NYU’s Bill Easterly gets a word in edgewise).
We also find that Clooney has a bit of Ronald Reagan in him, hard as the comparison may be to make. Like Reagan he believes in substituting cinema for real life politics because that’s what they believe Americans relate to:
Clooney’s strategy for public diplomacy is informed by film. “You have to get people in the theater first,” he reflects. “The trick is to be really concise—it’s a one-liner on a poster, right? You have to make it clear. ‘You can stop a war before it starts’ [or] ‘If you had a chance to prevent the next Darfur, what would you do?’?”
“You cannot sustain people’s attention seven days a week, for a long period of time. Actors have an advantage, because you do a movie and then you disappear for a while,” he says. “That’s what John and I try to do—come back every three or four months with something new to reignite interest.”
The piece is accompanied by glossy pictures like the one above of Clooney staring into the camera, clad in standard explorer gear (people who go on special shopping trips before they go to Africa or Glacier National Park always buy “gear” not “clothes”): “… khaki-colored ExOfficio vest, white safari shirt, lightweight pants, and worn hiking boots.” There’s also a photo, below, of Clooney among refugees who are full of “incredible hope.” Though he insists that he’s interested on redirecting our focus towards “issues,” he’s the central actor in this image, too – central because he’s smack in the middle, standing, in a joint apex of a triangle created by seated and standing people, sticking out because of the central difference of his “gear.”
We also learn, inadvertently, how the media prioritizes resources; most of them are not in South Sudan for the birth of a new nation–that sunrise moment in which everything seems possible and impossible. They’re there to cover Mr Clooney: “… Alerted that he was heading for Abyei [‘the oil-rich contested region’ in South Sudan], the networks dispatched cameras to an area without pavement or plumbing, 550 miles from the nearest city.”
We know, of course, what most of them were up to in South Sudan when they’re not covering Clooney.
The John mentioned above by Clooney is John Prendergast. Remember him? Prendergast acts as a kind of righthand man and publicist for Clooney. Near the end of the piece there is this breathless piece of “analysis” by Prendergast about the ongoing revolution in Egypt:
I don’t think it’s pure coincidence that protests took hold just days after the [South Sudan] referendum was broadcast on Al Jazeera. Those images helped empower people. The breeze of freedom from South Sudan became a gale-force wind in Egypt.
While Egypt, Libya, and Wisconsin are going on, why is this nonsensical analysis inside a major “news” magazine, and why is this the cover of Newsweek?
Is this movie over yet?
Read the full article over here.
—Neelika Jayawardane, Sean Jacobs.