TRUST is terribly old-fashioned. The church is rotten, parliament is a black farce, the media is choking, job security is an oxymoron, the military is mired in scandal and marriage is unavailable to some who want it and abused by most who have it. So we turn to sport for its purity, and find idols dependent on drugs, a mutating gambling virus, craven administrators and athletes swapping clubs - and even codes - for coin. It's little wonder self-interest has flourished, given the pillars of society are plainly made of salt.
The cultural sphere, too, has lost some sheen. There was a time when a band allowing its music to represent a product was the height of artistic abasement. Similarly, Hollywood stars were so reluctant to be seen commodifying their fame that they would hide their ad campaigns in Japan, like a mistress. That level of caution has become futile and unnecessary. Media careers are difficult to sustain and monetise in a culture of free downloads, and the public mostly accepts commercial arrangements as a natural component of celebrity. In the modern era, selling out is a buyers' market.
With relaxed attitudes towards leasing one's image, it takes a special effort to appear unseemly. Toni Collette raised eyebrows when she read corporate poetry for a bank, and Simon Baker got meta for money when he played his American TV character reading the minds of random Australians to give them financial advice. More recently, Tina Fey extolled the virtues of home hair colouring (''Avocado, olive and shea - it's actually nourishing while it colours!''), which doesn't quite square with her cheeky iconoclasm. While these ads might feel incongruous or uncomfortable, they don't necessarily alienate fans or constitute a clear abrogation of ethics. Step up Joel and Benji Madden.
Compunction is a trait you only notice when a person has none, and the twins from Good Charlotte have shown themselves to be in short supply with their decision to provide their clout to KFC. Co-founders of a pop-punk outfit are free to confer their reputations upon any fast-food multinational they desire, but the frontmen for fried chicken bring baggage to the transaction with their inconvenient history of vegetarianism and support for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Good Charlotte have appeared at PETA award shows; they recorded a special version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for a PETA compilation CD; Joel was nominated for the title of world's sexiest vegetarian by PETA and helped create vegetarian and vegan burritos for Denny's restaurants; band members joined some of PETA's 12,000 protests urging diners to boycott, drum roll … KFC. Oh, and Benji once said, ''Animal rights is something God put in my heart''. Well, I suppose what the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Joel rejects ever being a vegetarian or activist, but forgot to disavow the misconception when it worked for him. I guess a fluctuating iron intake will do that.
The advertisement features the rockers working behind a KFC drive-through window. As is the trend with celebrity endorsements, it's not enough to merely lend a face - you must also surrender your skills and perhaps a part of your self. The brothers will use images and comments uploaded by KFC eaters as ''inspiration'' to write a song about Australia, which they will premiere during the change of innings at a Twenty20 cricket match. Would you like dignity with that?
Also at KFC, Jimmy Barnes joined the Good Charlotte brothers at the Good Times campaign launch to sing Good Times by the Easybeats. Not good … but not as bad as the famously recovering alcoholic doing ads set in a bar for Wild Turkey.
At least the Madden boys had principles to begin with. Kim Kardashian, who somehow continues to subdivide her $oul, recently tweeted, ''I'm in love with the Kingdom of Bahrain'' while in the Middle East flogging milkshakes. As payment for her ignorance, the foreign minister of the repressive regime thanked her with an online smiley face. The relationship with the Islamic republic is so cosy she's in negotiations to film her next sex tape there.
When a performer sells out, it's dispiriting for fans because we are the ones who are supposed to do things we don't want to do for money. Selling out makes celebrities less than mortal; they become something like a fallen angel. The more we learn, the only principle we can count on is scepticism. It'd be nice occasionally to see the emperor wear clothes - provided he doesn't do an ad for them.