Saving the Day: Superpower Players

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.

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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