These days every celebrity is a do-gooder, but for Emma Thompson, using star power to fight disease or injustice can be not only "stunningly effective" but "also profoundly off-putting." In a column for the Times of London, the actor and screenwriter describes the tension between charity and celebrity, and offers advice for both fellow stars and the general public: "Ask yourself why you want to do it and remember that self-righteousness irritates rather than inspires."
For Thompson, part of the problem lies in the vocabulary of altruism: say "human rights activist" and "increasing numbers of people will just slam their hands over their ears." Instead of thinking of individual crises available for adoption by a celebrity advocate, we should see violence, poverty, disease, and other problems as interconnected. That more holistic view of charity can transform "a save-the-world complex" into "something much more honest, fulfilling, and achievable." (Read more charity stories.)