Join the Fool as we assess blame for this financial meltdown -- March Madness bracket style! Below is one of eight first matchups you can vote on … enjoy!   

The case for Kate Hudson, by Anand Chokkavelu
Yes, I am about to make the bold argument that Kate Hudson is more to blame for our current misery than is fraudster to the stars Bernie Madoff.

First, though, let me make an immediate concession: Unlike Bernie Madoff, Ms. Hudson didn't help create this financial mess -- she merely robs us of the last ounce of joy we have left in this crisis. And that last ounce of joy is so much more precious than the pounds of mirth taken before it.
Just as we did during the Great Depression, Americans are now turning to the movies to escape our real-world problems -- even as we skimp on everything else. Led by the studios of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Sony, and News Corp., box office receipts are up 13% over last year. Meanwhile, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) is cranking up its subscriber count -- surpassing 10 million in February.
We're looking for the comfort only a world of meet-cutes, zany montages, and happy endings can provide. But when we turn to a Kate Hudson romantic comedy, we're comforted like a sneeze is comforted by a sandpaper tissue.

I could belabor my case, but I'll keep it to three simple points.

  • Breaking a cardinal RomCom rule, her characters are unlikeable from beginning to end. Compare her performance in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days to Reese Witherspoon's in Just Like Heaven and Sweet Home Alabama to see the difference between a static performance and a dynamic performance.
  • Keep in mind, I'm not even a big Reese Witherspoon fan. I didn't have to mention Meg Ryan, Katherine Heigl, Rachel McAdams, Kirsten Dunst, Thandie Newton, Isla Fisher, or Elizabeth Banks to make my point.
  • It's a testament to the talent of her mother, the effervescent Goldie Hawn, that we put up with Kate Hudson's lack of talent. She should form a club with Rumer Willis, Dweezil Zappa, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -- without the nepotism, Hudson would merely be almost famous. 

Sure, Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme took in $65 billion -- more money than a McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) combined-annual-sales combo meal. Sure, if Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan paid back all their bailout money, we'd still be $30 billion shy of undoing Madoff's fraud. But, compared to the $50 trillion in estimated worldwide crisis losses, it's a rounding error. Meanwhile, imagine how much more airtight my case against Kate Hudson would be if I could have just forced myself to watch Fool's Gold … 

The case for Bernard Madoff, by Alyce Lomax
It's difficult to assign blame for the entire market meltdown; there's plenty of blame to go around, and in some ways, the enemy is us. However, I'd say Bernie Madoff is as good a person as any to represent the greedy, irrational behavior that culminated in one giant Ponzi scheme.

Back in 2007, my Foolish colleague Seth Jayson likened the housing bubble to a massive Ponzi scheme. Companies like Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Toll Brothers, and Bank of America's dubious acquisition, Countrywide Financial, all benefited from the daisy chain of greed that resulted from cheap credit, bizarre financial engineering, and the tragic conventional wisdom that housing prices could never go down, even if they were going up beyond any logical reason.

It was all an appealing illusion -- a pleasant and temporary lie -- just like Bernie Madoff's "too good to be true" scam. Madness abounded, and Madoff is the perfect symbol of all that went terribly wrong.

As for Kate Hudson, well, no way. If my Foolish March Madness adversary had nominated Paris Hilton, all right, I might concede. Silly reality shows, purse dogs, outrageously priced jeans from companies like True Religion (NASDAQ:TRLG) -- I don't know, those are all pretty good accessories for the decade of greed and stupidity. (And I will never forget when Paris asked what Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) was, and if it made walls. Yeah, that's cute.)

But Kate Hudson? As far as I know, she doesn't need to wear a bulletproof vest to go to court. In fact, I don't think she has to go to court at all, unless I missed something in my latest issue of Star. And while I understand Anand's argument that we could use some good old-fashioned escapism these days, I can't get behind the "romantic comedy" genre to get us there. I'd argue that our whole culture has gotten a little too into the "there's-always-a-happy-ending-and-Prince-Charming-is-going-to-save-me" mindset. We need more Sigourney Weavers kicking aliens' butts. Now that's inspiring.

In conclusion, Kate may not get an Oscar anytime soon, but she's blameless -- blame it on Bernie, people.

Check out the Fool’s entire 2009 March Madness bracket here.

Ladies, Anand Chokkavelu puts the romantic in romantic comedy. He owns shares of McDonald’s. Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. JPMorgan Chase is a former Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.