If you haven’t heard, cryptocurrency is crashing. Smarter people than I can explain it—and do here, here, and here—but suffice it to say, the bubble burst and billions in value have been wiped out. As per usual, it’s not the billionaires suffering—oh no, they’re slightly less rich—but plenty of Joe and Jane Main Street types bought into the hype, and now they stand to lose real assets, like savings and retirement accounts, and even possibly their homes. It reminds me of the house flipping craze of the 2000s, when a couple home decorating shows convinced a bunch of regular people they, too, could make money flipping houses and ended up going broke instead. Unsurprisingly, famous crypto skeptic Ben McKenzie is on top of it:


Why am I bringing up cryptocurrency? Because the #1 crypto spokesman, Matt Damon, was photographed yesterday, continuing to work on Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer in Los Angeles. Matt Damon was one of the first celebrities to do big time crypto ads, stating that “fortune favors the brave”, implying you’re a wuss if you don’t invest, and while the crash isn’t his fault, as Lainey once said, he’s the “face of the brand”. And he is EATING IT on social media, harder than any other celebrity who has shilled for a scam crypto or NFTs.


Again, this isn’t his fault. But as the celebrity who did a national ad campaign—international, really, because of the internet—for the crypto industry, he’s going to wear it. It would be like if Nespresso turned out to be an elixir that turned people into frogs one day, George Clooney would be the “frog coffee guy” for the rest of his life. And it actually got me thinking, how we don’t really see celebrities advertise for financial firms. Sure, they’ll do ads for credit cards, but Jennifer Garner hawks Capital One, not TIAA-Cref. Tina Fey wants you to get an AmEx card, not set up an IRA with Charles Schwab. 


Celebrities will sell us financial products that run a high risk of resulting in debt, but when it comes to the things that actually grow wealth, it’s a big secret. No one is doing adds for the funds people like Robert Downey, Jr. or Angelina Jolie are investing in. Sometimes, we have a vague idea of what they do with their money—real estate purchases are public record, though many celebrities use blind trusts to hide their assets—and we find out whenever someone like George Clooney sells a liquor brand for nearly a billion dollars. But what did George Clooney do with his tequila money? He didn’t stuff it in a mattress, he did something with it, and it probably wasn’t cryptocurrency. In fact, what did Matt Damon do with the money he got from that crypto ad? 

Celebrities sell us stuff all the time. Sometimes, that stuff can bite us on the ass, like if we turn out to be allergic to a beauty product or lose our 401(k)s in a volatile, unregulated financial market because celebrity endorsements legitimized the operation. But I think it’s worth noting that when it comes to money-related endorsements, celebrities don’t endorse value, they endorse risk. They sell us credit cards, but they aren’t selling us the mutual funds that are performing the best for them, or the speculative market that is grounded in a reality their own financial managers approve of. 


We live in an era of massive wealth inequality, and a huge reason for that is because the things that build wealth are hush-hush. No one is doing Super Bowl commercials for the funds and investments that make rich people richer. And I wonder, as Joe and Jane Main Street are left holding the now-empty crypto bag, if there will be any kind of moral reckoning in Hollywood, or within celebritydom at large. Selling people fancy watches and cars and coffee is one thing. Selling people an unregulated investment opportunity is something else entirely. It’s fun to laugh at crypto bros, but people WILL be hurt by this, just like people were hurt when the housing market crashed. But will we hear even one word about it from all the celebrity spokespeople?