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Saving the Day: Superpower Players

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

The exhibition previewed Monday with the usual glossy gala, raising funds to support the Costume Institute and drawing from a list of boldface names that reads like the combined story list of Vogue, People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and the Economist.

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The guests were encouraged to dress like they could leap tall buildings in a single bound. But many of the women looked as though their only superhuman talent was standing on four-inch heels through the cocktail hour. For once, the preponderance of Hollywood stars -- event chairs Julia Roberts and George Clooney, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Beyoncé, Clive Owen, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, and so on -- served not as a distraction from the exhibition but as an enhancement. In popular culture, A-list celebrities have become earthbound superheroes. As Armani noted, "Actors still hold the same fascination for people as they did for me when I was a kid. They are larger than life and invested with a glamour that makes them very attractive and powerfully influential. . . . Our current obsession with celebrities is at one level simply a form of hero worship."

Like flawed superheroes, stars step forward to end poverty, stave off global warming, feed the hungry. Look, up in the sky -- make that the receiving line -- it's Clooney! The room buzzed about his abundance of charm. About his ability to connect. Superman may have been able to fly, but in our culture, charisma might be the ultimate superpower.

-- Robin Givhan


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