Guest bloggersTHE CELEBRITY AND THE DISASTER
9 September 2010
This week Angelina Jolie visited Pakistan to meet flood victims and help with fundraising efforts. Faranaaz Parker of the Mail & Guardian Online challenges the use of Hollywood A-listers in such press trips and questions who really benefits. The views she expresses are not necessarily those of Oxfam. We’d like your comments on the issue.
The top news on Pakistan today was that Angelina Jolie had been to Pakistan to meet with flood victims. “Jolie calls for more flood aid” screamed headlines, while captions below pictures of the sultry star in black robes and headscarf read “Hollywood star Jolie visiting people displaced by floods”.
One online publication said Jolie’s comments on issues are “a leading benchmark of media buzz”. No doubt the flooding in Pakistan, which has largely slipped under the radar of popular imagination and has not received even a fraction of the aid needed to deal with the disaster, is in dire need of media buzz.
But unless Jolie’s press trip also involves a targeted aid-gathering campaign which appeals for actual donations and assistance, then we must ask who benefits more from the free publicity — the 20-million displaced people left in the wake of the flooding or Jolie herself? (Should it be mentioned that Jolie’s latest movie is currently in theatres?)
What does it say about our society when the hollow pronouncements of a pampered actress garners more interest than the fact that 20-million people have been displaced and 8-million people are in need of humanitarian aid?
Is the relatively low death toll in Pakistan really the reason aid has been so slow in arriving? WilI society only be moved when the numbers rise, as they surely will given the threat of infectious disease, famine and the oncoming winter?
Or do we need a few more A-listers to go out into the tented camps and destroyed homes, to ask grannies and small children to share their stories?
The very idea offends me. After all, life after the flood is not their story, it is their reality.