What could be more vulgar than the blockbuster mass-culture mediocrity relentlessly churned out by the Hollywood machine these days? The behavior of its so-called Talent.
Case in point: Robert Downey Jr. Even before acquiring that miniature idol for self-worship in the shape of his own superhero action figure, the notorious Tinseltown specimen had developed spectacular delusions of superiority over the rest of the world, my native country included. In an interview for The A.V. Club, while discussing the diversity of his film projects, Downey graciously offered the following revelation: "Am I going to be stronger, wiser, and gladder at the end if I go to fucking Bulgaria to shoot this whatever? [Laughs] And I'm like, no, I'm not." Well, allow me to inquire, Mr Eloquence, would anyone on earth be happier or wiser after watching Iron Man? Were you experiencing hallucinations at the time you made this statement, were you in the midst of a mental earthquake, or had perhaps an evil spirit taken possession of your body, with the specific purpose of maligning randomly-chosen Balkan countries? And shockingly enough, the hits kept coming. Piling insult on injury in a subsequent Chicago Social interview, Downey explained that he wouldn't go on location "because, in Bulgaria, prostitution and narcotics trafficking and that type of stuff is available, and for now, that wouldn't be OK." Really? Which source of infinite wisdom gave him that insight? Across the world, a number of choice destinations boast similar fare – right off the bat, Skid Row, Los Angeles, comes to mind. Pardon yours truly, but it seems Downey, assailed by his personal demons, has mistakenly stumbled into Eastern Europe thinking he's in North America. Perhaps a newsflash is required to jolt him back to the reality of drug abuse and prostitution in his own natural habitat. Indeed, certain colorful incidents of Downey's past involving those particular proclivities took place not in any other part of the globe but in the very state of California, and he should face those facts instead of spawning negativity and lies at the expense of foreign countries he's never been in in his life. Whatever personal defeats and weaknesses he had to overcome, there's no excuse for such oratorical bouts of total excrement aimed at Bulgaria.
Aside from the typical and amusingly exhibitionistic cocktail of profanity, ignorance, arrogance, and infantile egomania, Downey's blasphemous remarks illuminate a paradox. The man who can't produce a well-constructed sentence, much less locate Bulgaria on any map, also presumes to educate the public as to my country's merits or lack thereof, and even dares to judge and denigrate it through the press.
Would Downey care to elaborate on the foundation of his contempt for a place of which he has neither factual knowledge nor first-hand experience? He has yet to provide such an explanation. Clearly, it would be a waste of time to enlighten him on this subject – or even attempt to convey a sense of Bulgaria's mystic allure, its rich, ancient history, cultural treasures, sublime natural beauty… It is unlikely he has the capacity to recognise or appreciate any of that.
But while this celebrity's uninformed prejudice, vapidity, and verbal diarrhoea deserve compassion, they also demand a practical lesson in cross-cultural sensitivity. Regrettable as it is, an actor of his calibre has a public platform, and he ought to be aware of the corresponding obligation to express himself with at least a measure of dignity and respect for others. And where Downey lacks the judgement and ability to behave in a manner worthy of his greatness and privileged stardom, he ought to do everyone a favor by keeping silent.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers