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Consolations for celebrities

Consolation prizes make everyone feel like a winner. At the Oscars, everyone is a winner, receiving a swag bag worth tens of thousands of dollars. This year, the goodie bag is worth a meager $47,802, the lowest it has been in five years.

This figure is not far from America’s 2011 median household income of $50,054. And this is just a goodie bag! The marketing firm Distinctive Assets has put together the “Everyone Wins at the Oscars” gift bag for 11 years and is confident that no one receiving the gift bags would notice the decrease in value. In 2010, the swag bags topped $90,000. The actors may not notice the decrease in value, but us little people sure notice the value.

Sure, actors deserve some credit. They deserve thanks and recognition for the work they do. It’s not all fun and games all the time like we tend to assume. But I may go so far as to say they don’t deserve a gift bag worth the average American’s yearly income just for going to a party.

According to an article by Martha White on, this year the goodie bag included items such as a $4,100 weeklong weight-loss retreat, $406 hand cream, a $795 water filtration device and a $1,800 pass to the VIP club at London’s Heathrow Airport. There are also various cheaper and more practical items such as a $19.99 clothing de-fuzzer and a $3.99 cleaning product from Windex. There were also some big-ticket vacation packages, although this year saw a smaller number of them than in years past.

What is amazing is the fact that companies that donate items to the bag have to pay to do so. White says in her article that companies pay between $4,000 and $20,000 to participate, along with the cost of what they donate. The companies all hope and pray that the stars will use their product or be seen wearing it and get enough publicity that way. This is quite a gamble if you ask me.

The comment section of White’s article is a pretty good indication of how people feel about this “conspicuous consumption,” as one commenter puts it. For the most part, commenters sarcastically show pity for the stars or express outrage about the whole concept. One commenter really caught my eye, though. ModerationInAllThings began his or her comment with the realization that, “the author more or less got exactly the responses they hoped for when penning this.” He or she goes on to say that this is not the greatest injustice in our society. The stars only get where they are because of the people. Stop going to movies and they stop having such success.

“We collectively, again, have given this our blessing or else it wouldn’t be,” ModerationInAllThings said.  “QB’s being paid millions of dollars, BB ‘heroes’ making more endorsing shoes than putting in hoops, Hollywood and music arenas….. we’ve only our fellow Americans to blame.”

Whether you agree or not, ModerationInAllThings makes a good point. While America is not about to stop watching basketball or going to the movies, we can stop creating a false picture of these celebrities. They get their fame through us.

It may be crazy to give them a goodie bag worth tens of thousands of dollars, but if people want to donate their wares to them, so be it. I don’t agree with the concept, but if I was a star, I might enjoy that swag.

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