If it’s mid-May, this must be Cannes.

That is, the onslaught of photos of pretty women in mostly pretty, sometimes mundane dresses now flooding various media channels must be from Cannes, that most famous and glitziest of the film festivals, with a rich history and deep archive of images of gorgeous, glammed-up celebs.

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In other words, another mega red-carpet moment, a valuable opportunity for stars to pose, and for fashion and jewelry brands to rack up photo ops that result in credits, which result in social media play, which results in those cute little thumbs-up “likes,” which apparently result in fashion’s version of world domination.

Or that’s the goal, whether or not ROI can be divined to any clinical degree is completely beside the point. Unlike the Oscars, which is the Super Bowl of the red carpet, Cannes is more like the NBA playoffs — it goes on forever, with some of the biggest stars in the business going the distance.

Do we, the viewing/reading/critiquing public, ever tire? Apparently not. Not only do we never tire, we also aspire to red carpets of our own. Google the words “red carpet” and a cause, not only a specific organization’s event, but a lower-case cause — hunger, cancer, education, the environment, hurricane relief — and chances are, something will turn up. It might be the arrivals at one of the major events well-known on the fashion circuit or a small-market charity benefit that has attached “Red Carpet” to the name of its event to upgrade the glamour quotient.

It’s understandable. We live in a celebrity-obsessed society. We live too in a world filled with people who need help and, thank God, with a healthy percentage of very generous people ready to help. Fuse the three and therein lies the recipe for a successful fund-raiser. Arrival photos are essential to an event’s marketing, even when the event itself calls for a discreet dress code. Is there no cause too sober, no disease too tragic for its fund-raising events to be paraded across, and sometimes billed as, red-carpet events?

The glamification of philanthropy as epitomized by the red carpet is well-intentioned and to a large degree works. Celebrities can shine a spotlight on a cause, even if in the broad media coverage, the cause can take a back seat to the glam.

Similarly with Cannes, as with the Oscars and other entertainment-focused events, there’s a larger purpose in the works. Not an overall philanthropic purpose, but a purpose: big-time marketing. The problem is that, as with the fashion show schedule, the awards and film festival calendars are overloaded. Cannes is publicized by the festival organization; its individual parties, by those who throw them, and the fashion by every brand that places anything — gown, shoes, pinky ring — on an actress. Fashion is at the forefront at every turn.

Red-carpet coverage has become omnipresent in the lives of anyone who accesses any type of media — and that’s everyone. So much so that at some point, one would think the greater media-consuming world might become bored with the year-round parades of chiffon-and-Swarovski celebrity dress-up. But not so far. It all seems excessive, redundant, whatever, but so what? Those irritated by the overkill can skip the slide show.

But sometimes the fun of the red carpet plays as not so funny. Case in point: Washington, D.C.’s storming of the scarlet path. Beltway fascination with Hollywood is not new — and not just in the political zeal for the cool, intelligent celebrity endorsement. (See: Happy Birthday, Mr. President, then a breathy, T&A spectacle; now an audio-visual testament to the wife being the last to know, or pretending not to know).

In our small, complicated, new media-driven age, worlds fuse as easily as they collide, and all of D.C. wants in on the fusion. Look at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Once known as the city’s nerd prom, now that handle can be invoked only with wistful nostalgia. At the 2016 event last month, the nerds went after the cool kids with gusto, and the latter turned out in force.

On the CBS News web site slide show of the arrivals, Madeline Albright is number 54, following a host of entertainment and runway stars, some with passionate, well-known views on political and social issues, and some not: Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jared Leto, Christy Turlington, Ed Burns, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Karlie Kloss, Emma Watson, Bryan Cranston, Adriana Lima, Emily Ratajkowski, the cast of “The View.” There were likely hundreds of other guests, too, wildly accomplished in matters of government, business and social issues. But the entertainment glitterati made the slide shows.

The most telling sighting of all: Kendall Jenner. Like it or not, the names Kardashian and Jenner mean something in our culture. She looked beautiful and refined, a little cleavage, yes, but such was the order of the evening. Her presence at this fete was clearly a coup — and not for her. Jenner was there for a reason. She pushed the eager White House Press Corps up the ladder of pop-culture cool. That’s sad.

In any other election year, it might be enough to wish for a Republican victory, as hot celebrities don’t swing red. But would a President Trump settle for anything less than a beauteous, bodacious cadre to populate his dinner appearances? Only a President Sanders (who has his share of famous fans) might be put off by one-percenter gals in gowns unless they settle for priced-for-the-people fast-fashion knockoffs.

Last week’s State Dinner honoring the Nordic countries featured a celeb contingent leaner than that of the Correspondents fete, but still enough for moments or red-carpet sparkle: Allison Williams, Miranda Kerr, Connie Britton, Ross (again), Will Ferrell, Billy Eichner.

In an alphabetic coincidence, when the official guest list was released, Demi Lovato fell between Lars G. Lose, Danish ambassador to the U.S., and Chris Lu, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor. Perhaps Lovato weighed in with her thoughts on Danish tourist spending and its impact on retail employment. Surely Lu looked dashing in his tux.

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