The Disney Friends for Change campaign was something related to development that I remember from my childhood and it involved the celebrities that I considered role models. Their goal through this campaign was to encourage kids to “go green” and become environmentally friendly. The Disney stars came together to raise money for projects through collaborations on songs. Their actions certainly made me knowledgeable about the issue, however my awareness never pushed me to join their cause. Celebrities have the power to make a difference, but they must be truly passionate and educated about a cause to truly affect change.
Its no doubt that celebrity fame automatically brings about more awareness to the issues they are involved in. Stars have the power to target different audiences, especially new and younger audiences (Bunting 2010). Audiences vary by age, gender, ethnicity among many other demographics. For example, campaigns like Friends for Change are able to reach Disney Channel viewers, many of whom are children. People are more likely to imitate or follow what their role models do and seeing celebrities “doing good” may inspire fans to do the same. Celebrities can also “raise the profile of a campaign, bringing extra media coverage (Littler 2008).” The effects of celebrity fame on development are obvious, but I would like to focus on the less obvious negative effects.
Though celebrities can reach different demographics, they may not be directly tackling the issue at hand. Celebrities may be getting involved to improve their public image, however, they may not truly understand the issue itself; And though they show their support for a cause, their actions may not be changing anything. Take the following video for example:
Chad Ochocinco is an American football player who showed support for Breast Cancer Awareness month through wearing pink and donating to a local charity. His actions do positively contribute to the cause, but what will it actually do for Breast Cancer Awareness? The general public may know the meaning behind the colour, but it needs to go beyond that. Wearing pink does not further his cause, nor does it give fans more of a reason to show concern. “ It’s not enough for a celebrity to say they care, you have also to show you know what you are talking about (Bunting 2010).” Ochocinco’s interview does not show his reasons for getting involved. His actions can become empty when viewers do not see his knowledge of breast cancer or why the public ought to be informed. Including a personal anecdote or even statistics on breast cancer are ways of doing this. Furthermore, the video talks about how a T-shirt saying “ Real Men Wear Pink” will be sold. These words have the potential to raise gender related issues such as “ what defines a ‘real man’?” or “why are females associated with wearing pink?”. Though the actions of celebrities may be well intended, they may uncover more issues.
Celebrities do have the power to make a positive impact on development, but their genuine concern needs to be visible to the public. A positive impact shows lasting results. The Friends for Change campaign made an impact that seemed temporary and their projects did bring awareness to being environmentally friendly. However my celebrity role models no longer seem to be actively supporting the cause. My awareness of the campaign also stopped soon after.( The blame is also partly on me, too.) Individuals in the public eye need to be educated about their beliefs to educate others about them. An event like Ochocinco wearing pink is only the start of how celebrity fame can be useful towards development. A continued partnership with NGOs and government organisations,perhaps, is what they need to make a lasting impact.
Bunting, M. (2013) The issue of celebrities and aid is deceptively complex . The Guardian. Available from:http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/dec/17/celebrity-aid-development-bono-brad-pitt. (Accessed 29 November 2013).
Littler, Jo ‘I feel your pain: Celebrity do-gooding, cosmopolitan caring and the globalised soul’, Social Semiotics, 2008 18(2): 237-251
(2011) ‘Celebrities and Development: Should they mix?’ The DiA blog, 7 November. Available at: http://developmentinaction.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/celebrities-and-development-should-they-mix/ (Accessed 29 November 2013).