Jennifer Nelson:Danger: celebrities with conscience

I’ve been suspect of celebrities ever since 1990. That was the year I realized that not only was Joey Joe McIntyre from New Kids on the Block not in love with me, but he never would be in love with me.

We were from different worlds, Joey and I. It would never work. He was a celebrity and I was a commoner, a 12-year-old girl trying to make it through the seventh grade. In my mind, we were as ill-fated as Romeo and Juliet. And like those star-crossed lovers I was consumed by my unjust passion. Well, at least until I got my first boyfriend later that year. Then it was goodbye Joey and hello Josh. Goodbye celebrity and hello reality.

It’s been almost 13 years. Still, I can’t say I’m over the experience. Ever since Joey, I’ve been suspicious of celebrities. And rightfully so.

Celebrities are everywhere. And they’re dangerous. They peek out at us from behind the boxes of bubble gum and candy bars and miniature flashlights in the line at the supermarket, and they sing along with us in the car. They help us decide what to wear on Saturday night and push us to run that extra mile at the gym.

They decide who is the most beautiful of them all and tell us how to vote in the next election. They force us to protest and take our president’s name in vain.

Yeah, celebrities sure have some nerve.

Take, for example, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. By now it is no secret that two weeks ago, while performing in London, Maines spoke out against President Bush. “Just so you know,” she said, “we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

Consequently, the Dixie Chicks’ music was pulled from radio stations across America. And her Web site,, contains this message from Linnea Johnson, director of consumer services for Lipton, who is sponsoring the group’s current tour: “As you can imagine, we did not expect a political controversy to arise when Lipton became a sponsor of the Dixie Chicks upcoming ‘Top of the World’ concert tour. In this time of national crisis, we believe it is important for Americans to come together behind the values of freedom, democracy and tolerance that have made the United States of America into the country it is today. We have every reason to believe the Dixie Chicks sincerely regret the distress Ms. Maines’ comment has caused.”

Freedom, democracy and tolerance? These must be the same high ideals held by the handful of fans who walked out of a Pearl Jam concert last week after front man Eddie Vedder spoke out against the war. Because god forbid an artist have an opinion.

Laurence Fishburne, Janeane Garofalo, Danny Glover, Samuel L. Jackson, Madonna, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, all suspect. Even Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst has spoken out against the war (as if we needed another reason not to like him).

With so many celebrities leading us astray, it is obvious that we need to find some new role models. Are there any politicians or professional athletes that appeal to you? No?

Then I guess we’ll have to fend for ourselves. Can you handle it? Here, I’ll get you started. Freedom, democracy and tolerance – these are all good things. Especially tolerance.

As for what to wear on Saturday night, that is up to you.