Article

The spectacularization of suffering: an analysis of the use of celebrities in ‘Comic Relief’ UK’s charity fundraising campaigns

Citation

Lim M & Moufahim M (2015) The spectacularization of suffering: an analysis of the use of celebrities in ‘Comic Relief’ UK’s charity fundraising campaigns. Journal of Marketing Management, 31 (5-6), pp. 525-545. https://doi.org/10.1080/0267257x.2015.1020330

Abstract
In this paper, we engage with recent charity fundraising campaigns in the UK such as ‘Sport Relief’ and ‘Red Nose Day’, both of which are organised by Comic Relief, an operating British charity. These campaigns are increasingly extreme spectacles of celebrity-suffering that concentrate public attention on the spectacle image itself rather than on the charities these spectacles espouse. Drawing upon Guy Debord’s critique of spectacle and celebrity in The Society of the Spectacle, we contend that the phenomenon of celebrity fundraising in this context is interesting not only because of its voyeuristic dimensions (as argued by a number of scholars on celebrity humanitarianism) but also because it raises issues about how the use of highly visual and visceral images of celebrities’ suffering has banalised the charitable causes to which they lend their names, often erasing them altogether. Celebrities’ suffering in this context is framed by the media both as mega-spectacles of entertainment and as lavishly staged journeys of heroism and suffering set apart from the material and social abundance celebrities represent. We demonstrate using a range of empirical sources from news reports and live TV coverage that when celebrities submit to these extreme journeys of physical suffering, it raises new questions about the moral limits of the marketisation of emotion and the commodification of the charitable journey itself.

Keywords
spectacle; charity; celebrity; hero; Guy Debord; Comic Relief

Journal
Journal of Marketing Management: Volume 31, Issue 5-6

StatusPublished
Publication date31/12/2015
Publication date online11/03/2015
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/27377
PublisherInforma UK Limited
ISSN0267-257X
eISSN1472-1376