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Eilis O'Hanlon: Celebrities are blinded by starlight

Proving once again that some people still think irony is an adjective used to describe things with a lot of iron in them, Sean Penn pops up to decry the modern obsession with celebrity, blissfully ignoring the fact that the only reason anyone is listening to a word he says is because he is a celebrity himself, albeit one with a progressively weakening pull.

Put it this way: I can be heard decrying the cult of celebrity every time I realise Xpose is about to start on TV3, but my grumbling rarely makes the headlines on the morning news. Even more ironic was that Penn made his comments whilst promoting his new movie, This Must Be The Place, at the Sundance Film Festival. This is a film that also stars Bono's teenage daughter, Eve Hewson -- which itself has been used as a peg on which to hang the film's promotion, since it's about an ageing rock star in Ireland. The reviews say Hewson is terrific, but the ever-decreasing circles of celebrity in the whole enterprise do rather recall the legendary weejy weejy bird, which only had one wing, meaning it flew round and round in circles until it disappeared up its own rear end.

The perfect metaphor for celebrity.

As Sean Penn, ironically, would no doubt agree.

Thankfully, there is a cure, which is to resist the urge to say whatever comes into your head the moment a member of the media points a microphone anywhere within the general vicinity of your mouth; but the cure demands that the patient wants to be cured, and of that there is scant evidence, as Penn's increasingly vocal campaigning on everything from socialism to Hurricane Katrina to gay rights demonstrates.

He's not alone in suffering from the affliction, if it's any consolation. Last week alone, the "obscene disease of celebrity that's taken over far too much of the life that we live" has resulted in headlines ranging from "Liam Neeson: I May Become a Muslim" to "Is Kim Kardashian Planning to Run for President?" to, my personal favourite, "Jeremy Irons Blames 'Wild Consumer Frenzy' for Financial Crisis."

This being Jeremy "Seven Homes" Irons, who divides his time between a pink castle in Co Cork, a palatial pile in Oxfordshire, other addresses in London and New York and, well, I forget the rest. He probably does, too.

Now, Irons is a delightfully mischievous old cove, and funny with it, so he ought to be granted considerable leeway when pontificating on the state of the world. He's usually wrong, but in such a nice way that you can almost forgive him for it -- a trait he shares with George Clooney. (Of course, the movieplex good looks don't hurt either.) But it is rather strange that Katie Price should be so roundly mocked when it's reported that the former glamour girl is tweeting on the need for full

fiscal union to save the euro, when comments by Irons et al are met with respectfully nodding heads rather than superior smirks. Why presume he knows any more about global economics than she does? Because, he told Andrew Marr on the BBC, he read a book before playing his latest role as the senior executive of a crisis-hit bank. A whole book, huh?

Unlike Penn, Irons at least is aware of the irony (no pun intended) of his situation. He's always admitted that he's a wealthy man. But confessing to the fact that you're having your cake and eating it too doesn't mean your moral waistline won't pile on some unsightly pounds. Irons even told an interview years ago: "I believe in coincidence. If you're predestined to become rich, you will. If not, too bad for you."

Meanwhile, as his father castigates the great unwashed for falling for the "belief that buying makes us happier" and loading up the credit card with more and more stuff, son Maximilian Irons is unveiled as the new face of New York department store Macy's menswear collection.

Apparently it's okay to make the little people want stuff as long as it's you and yours being paid handsomely for leading them down the road to consumerist ruin.

Or maybe Max is just "destined" to be rich, like daddy? Lucky boy.

Sunday Independent