Article Review: The X-factor of charity

Driessens, O., Joye, S., & Biltereyst, D. (2012). The X-factor of charity: a critical analysis of celebrities’ involvement in the 2010 Flemish and Dutch Haiti relief shows. Media, Culture & Society, 34(6), 709-725.

The article examines the role of celebrities in charity media events in 2010 Haitian earthquake to study on its contextual complexity as ideological constructs. By using qualitative content analysis, the authors argue that celebrities’ participation in charity events only reinforces charity media discourse of “charitainment”. The article proposed four functions of celebrity involvement: adding glamour, making distant suffering relevant for domestic audience, motivating and contributing to the commodification charity.In general, this article adopts a critical approach to current media representation of charity with regarding to celebrities.

The most remarkable point is that the discourse of media tends to take a shallow perspective of charity events. For instance, disaster reports are often simplified into a short-term issue which could be easily solved by fund-raising. Furthermore, it shifts focus from the real suffering group to “us”.As authors quoted from Chouliaraki (2006): relief aid was portrayed as “premised on an unequal world order, whereby the poor depend on the rich”. Celebrities could be considered as a part of “rich” group. What they contribute in charity events are used as evidence of caring from “us”. By combing celebrities with the audience, these media events actually strengthen this “unequal” world order. The language analysis in appeal statements also reveals how to create a feeling of self-complacence by directly approaching the audience to ask for donation. In the end, the article proposed more scrutinization on consequences of celebrity culture in charity media events.

Word count: 250

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Article Review: The X-factor of charity

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