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Celebrities embark on a Ukraine safari

Published: August 17, 2022 | Print Friendly and PDF

The saying goes that there is nothing that celebrities can’t make about themselves. As it turns out, that includes a war in Ukraine caused by an invasion of Russia that’s already seen thousands of casualties.

It’s almost as though there are two wars happening at once: one on social media, where guerrilla clips from the front lines show bodies, shelling, and damage to homes, and one playing out in the pages of Vogue magazine.

This week, it was revealed that Oscar-winning actress Jessica Chastain had visited with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. The photo was posted to his official Telegram account and was taken from his presidential palace. There were also several shots of Chastain seated at a table with Zelensky having a discussion of some sort.

Chastain is only the latest celebrity du jour to hold court with Zelensky, who has taken on a celebrity status of his own in American media culture. He was asked to appear at the Oscars and did appear at the Grammys via video message. Last month, actor Sean Penn took a meeting with Zelensky. In June, actor Ben Stiller met with Zelensky in the presidential palace. In May, on Zelensky’s invitation, U2 gave a 40-minute performance in a Kyiv metro station. Angelina Jolie, a UN-designated humanitarian, visited as well. Last month, Zelensky and his wife Olena posed for a much heralded photo spread in Vogue for famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. The spread drew head scratches and some backlash on social media for what was deemed misguided priorities.

I don’t fault Zelensky for taking high-profile meetings with international celebrities. He’s doing what he can using a star-hungry media to keep the atrocities in his country at the forefront of people’s minds. I do, however, question what kind of military strategy and diplomatic expertise the guy from Zoolander and the chick from Zero Dark Thirty can offer.

Perhaps Sean Penn can grab his shotgun and commandeer a platoon. 


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