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The X-factor of charity: a critical analysis of celebrities' involvement in the 2010 Flemish and Dutch Haiti relief shows

Driessens, Olivier, Joye, Stijn and Biltereyst, Daniel (2012) The X-factor of charity: a critical analysis of celebrities' involvement in the 2010 Flemish and Dutch Haiti relief shows. Media, Culture and Society, 34 (6). pp. 709-725. ISSN 0163-4437

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0163443712449498


In our contemporary mediatized societies, philanthropy seems to be part of celebrities’ ontology, while celebrities have become indispensable for the charity industry. This has provoked both negative and positive appraisals, although the specific nature and consequences of celebrities’ involvement remain unclear. This article contributes to these debates by providing a systematic analysis of the roles celebrities play in telethons, which we redefine as charity media events, allowing us to study the shows in their full contextual complexity as ideological constructs. Applying qualitative content analysis, we have analysed two charity media events following the 2010 Haitian earthquake. In general, four distinct roles have been discerned: celebrities add an aura of exclusiveness and glamour, they render distant suffering relevant to domestic audiences, they function as principal motivators, and also contribute to the commodification of charity. Celebrities’ involvement thus reinforces charity media events’ dominant discourse of charitainment, in which a disaster is portrayed as a short term problem that can be remedied by supporting relief aid. Although this analysis does not disregard the usefulness and impact of fundraising campaigns and the contribution celebrities can make, it criticizes the oversimplified representation of complex issues and the decontextualized and depoliticized interpretations of distant suffering.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 SAGE Publications
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2014 12:18
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 06:36

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