Monday, December 06, 2010

I Don’t Need Your Charity

I’m a little stoked on this.

Not only that I gave money to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and not that I got to rip on the people who are changing their Facebook profile pictures to childhood cartoons because they think doing so will somehow fight child abuse. No, I’m happy that it got a positive response from my people on Facebook. Granted, most of these supporters also had their natural, human faces in their profiles, but those who had opted for the pop-eyed, black-outlined pics understood what I was saying: It’s not stupid to like cartoons, but it is completely empty-headed to imagine that such a small gesture — one that’s not even public, given how most people protect their Facebook pages — could be interpreted as activism. And then, to insist that others should follow suit to prove that they too oppose child abuse? No thank you, not for me. I prefer not to be peer-pressured into making the hollowest of hollow gestures. This Valleywag post fairly adeptly kicked the shit out of this non-movement, if you care to read more about it.

But what strikes me as most idiotic about this deal is the deadline set in the text that so many unthinking Facebookers copied and pasted onto their walls. “Until Monday, Dec. 6, there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories.” Seriously? No human faces on all of Facebook? It would be impossible, what with the people who don’t check in very often or don’t follow trends or, you know, simply refuse to be bullied into acting stupidly. So in that sense, the effort failed about the very moment it began. I’m looking around Facebook this morning and seeing mostly the same humans to whom I extended Facebook friendships, with the likes of Fifi La Fume or Great Mouse Detective popping up occasionally in between.

I also think it’s noteworthy that that the Facebook Invasion of Cartoon Memories coincided with another social media-based charity movement: the Digital Death campaign purportedly orchestrated by Alicia Keys. (I know Keys probably didn’t come up with the idea and simply seems to be the spokesperson attached to this celebrity holocaust, but for the purposes of simplicity, let’s just understand that she’ll be standing in for the team of people who attempted to pull this one off.) In this stunt, Twitter-friendly celebs “died” on December 1, World AIDS Day, and agreed to refrain from using Twitter until regular folks raise $1 million to fight AIDS in Africa. It’s a noble cause, but people have only raised a fraction of that money — around $300,000 since I checked last night. This does not bode well, as lot of celebrities rely on Twitter to maintain their celebrity status. I mean, what does a “digitally dead” Kim Kardashian do? Sing songs and make movies? So Keyes and her friends have painted themselves in a corner, both by assuming that the general public cares about whether they tweet and by putting themselves in the position of resuming Twitter activities but having to announce something like, “Okay, we’re back. We paid the money ourselves. You all suck.” It may end up being an eye-opener to these fake-dead famosos to find out that their fans don’t care about them as much as they might have expected — and that people just aren’t willing to shell out money during a recession.

death looks kinda glamorous, don’t it?

I have one more thought about the latest Keep a Child Alive venture, and I almost refrained from sharing it on grounds that it makes me sound self-centered in a way that I’d like to think I’m not. But here goes: Looking at the line-up of “dead” celebs, it’s clear that no one was interested in getting the attention of me and my friends, most of whom are intelligent, liberal, humanitarian-minded young people who might actually be convinced to give money to charity. The list includes Keyes, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Janelle Monae, Usher, Lenny Kravitz, Daphne Guinness, Swizz Beatz, Serena Williams, some dude named Bronson Pelletier, some dude named Jay Sean, the cast of some show called The Buried Life, and two of the three Kardashians. When the famous person I come closest to giving a damn about is Elijah Wood, someone has made a terrible mistake.

It seems like Keys mainly went for celebs who appeal to tweens — a demographic not known for spending money on charity — and celebs known for non-indie rock, non-country western music. (And if that’s the case, what excuse did Katy Perry have for not jumping on board? She should be a twofer, yet she’s tweeting up a storm.) I’m genuinely interested to know if Keys attempted to get celebrities known for tweeting funny, intelligent things — say, Michael Ian Black or Conan O’Brien or Mindy Kaling — and simply was turned down, or if she thought getting her friends on board would give broad enough appeal that she didn’t need to interest me.

All that said, I support the effort to save African and Indian children from a horrible disease. People should donate, even if doing so means that we’ll be unleashing upon the world more tweets from Lady Gaga about her “monsters.” I just think it’s too bad that the campaign decided to call attention to a worldwide crisis by speaking to a relatively narrow segment of the population.


  1. I think the real problem with the "So-and-so is dead" campaign is that it's so bloody morbid and comes off reeking of self-importance. People are ACTUALLY dying of AIDS, so to have these celebs get all made up to have a glamorous photoshoot in a freaking coffin? How freaking disrespectful can you get? Also, equating Kim Kardashian's inability to tweet about using mayo as a sex aid to death is not only melodramatic, but really sad.
    I think Gawker has a good point on this one, too: If a celeb is "digitally dead," they can't constantly be tweeting reminders to their followers to donate.

  2. And speaking of self-importance, donors had the option to text their donation in the name of their "dead" celebrity of choice. Isn't that just another way for them to track which celebrity is bringing in more money?
    Usher: "In your face, Justin Timberlake. I have more fans who care about the inane details of my life than you!"
    Justin: "Damn, yo. I guess you really are better than me, Usher."

  3. They've hit a million, so I guess the celebs will start tweeting again. Some billionaire matched the half-million normal people raised.