Thursday, July 3, 2014

Amy Adams, Class Act

Sandwiched last week between another of Justin Beiber’s car accidents and another of Shia LaBoeuf’s public meltdowns, it’s a pleasure to find a celebrity behaving with class and kindness, serving as a positive role model instead of a cautionary example.

Boarding a flight Friday from Detroit to Los Angeles where she is shooting a new movie, actress Amy Adams noticed an American soldier being seated in coach, and decided to do something that she later told someone she’d always wanted to do.

Jemele Hill, a fellow first class passenger, witnessed Adams quietly requesting of the airline crew to switch seats with the soldier, whom she didn’t know. She moved back to coach, and the pleasantly surprised soldier, who didn’t know who his benefactor was, moved up to first class.

Hill immediately got the word out on Twitter, and upon arrival at the airport Adams was beset by entertainment reporters pressing her about it. “I didn’t do it for attention for myself,” the actress said as she tried to duck away from microphones. “I did it for attention for the troops.”

It’s possible that Adams developed a sensitivity to and respect for military service members as an Army brat herself, born in Italy and then moved from base to base until she was eight or nine years old. The daughter of Mormons, she says of her religious upbringing, “I can’t speak for everybody, but I know it instilled in me a value system I still hold true. The basic ‘Do unto others…’ – that was what was hammered into me. And love.”

It isn’t that Adams’ surrender of her first class seat was an enormous sacrifice, just a simple, thoughtful, respectful gesture that celebrities, accustomed to luxury comforts and special treatment, don’t usually make. “The flight attendant even remarked to me,” said Jemele Hill, “that in all her years of service she has never seen a celebrity do something like that. Regular people, yes. But not a celeb.”

Comedian Louis CK has a routine in which he jokes about having the impulse to do something nice for someone, an impulse he never acts on but nevertheless feels proud of himself simply for having considered it. As an example, he mentions military service members on planes:

They always fly coach. I’ve never seen a soldier in first class in my life… And every time that I see a soldier on a plane I always think, “You know what? I should give him my seat. It would be the right thing to do, it would be easy to do, and it would mean a lot to him… I never have, let me make that clear. I’ve never done it once… And here’s the worst part: I was actually proud of myself for having thought of this. ‘I am such a sweet man. That is so nice of me, to think of doing that and then totally never do it.’

Amy Adams not only thought about it, but acted on it. Especially in comparison to egomaniac rapper Kanye West, who had the nerve to compare his stage performances to the risks of military service, or tone-deaf Gwyneth Paltrow, who called internet attacks on her the “bloody, dehumanizing” equivalent of war, Adams’ actions revealed humility and gratitude toward our military who sometimes sacrifice life and limb in service to their fellow Americans.

Her gesture was a small one, but hopefully the attention it’s getting will spark greater awareness of our debt to military service members and inspire all of us, celebrities and otherwise, to find ways we can express a similar humility and gratitude.
(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 6/30/14)