Dooley a Messi business
Updated: Jul 27, 2019
Comic Relief is “heading in the direction of not using celebrities” to promote its campaigns. MP David Lammy in response to pictures posted by Stacey Dooley of her time in Uganda said: “The world does not need any more white saviours.” Comic Relief now wants to make sure they are “very careful to give voices to people” who live in the areas being highlighted.
Before we rush to judge Stacey Dooley, remember the world which operates around us. An advert for crisps had David de Gea (Manchester United goalkeeper) and Lionel Messi (everyone knows him) diving against one another from opposite ends of the room to grab the crisps in the middle. Why didn’t the crisp manufacturers use my son, sitting on a sofa, watching the footy, munching a bag of his favourite crisps? It would have been a lot cheaper than paying celebrities who don’t need the extra cash and no doubt helped my son financially. And he actually eats the crisps normally in his life! But that’s not the world that operates around us, is it? We have Ant and Dec fronting Santander Bank. We have Jeff Bridges, an American actor, fronting an advert for Dutch beer Amstel, because his name is Bridges or because he is famous or both? Rightly or wrongly, in my mind wrongly, we hang on to big celebrities to advertise everything rather that use ordinary people to front advertising. It sells the product, doesn’t it? So before we rush to judge Stacey Dooley for “promoting” the work of Comic Relief, it’s what the world does. Celebrity fronts supposedly mean extra sales! I obviously do not know Stacey Dooley apart from documentaries on television and “Strictly” but she comes across as a decent person and I don’t think for a minute that she worked with Comic Relief for an extra bit of publicity on television.
The #nowhitesaviours group make some interesting and valid points to create the right conversation and promote debate. Some might want to make a name for themselves in helping others but I reckon Stacey Dooley and many others do not raise awareness for self-gratification. Why should awareness-raising not include social media? In this modern era, whether you like it or not, social media is the latest form of communication, potentially reaching millions. Using social media responsibly can raise awareness and gather momentum for positive change and increase funds for good causes.
Our Church recently raised £39000 in six months to send 12 people to Tanzania with the Vine Trust to help start building Kazunzu Village of Hope. Should we have done this? 100%. We learned about the new Village of Hope before the volunteers went there and about what the local people needed, and the situation they were facing. They worked alongside Vine Trust partners in Tanzania, worked alongside local people to start building new houses for orphans. No, that is not the whole story of Africa, but it’s the story of that small part of Africa. No, the volunteers were not expecting the local people to be grateful, but they were nevertheless. And the children especially were amazed to see these white people! They were not saviours, but for a short time became friends and will hopefully remain friends. The learning and the helping was a two-way street! As recent as last year the Church of Scotland as a whole at General Assembly agreed there was much for us here in Scotland to learn from the Church in Africa. In a declining Church perhaps we are the ones needing saved and Scotland from spiritual poverty?
Christian Aid also seeks to help the poorest in the world until “poverty is over”. That will take the rich (individuals and businesses) finally learning to live with less and share more; that will take leaders of all countries, rich and poor, leading their countries for the good of all people; that will take all people waking up to save the planet and respect all people, raising everyone to dignity. Christian Aid actually had a fantastic advertising video this year, fronted by local people – Tenneh’s and Nurse Judith’s story - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBhL2sbK95g
A powerful story about a local situation in Sawula, Sierra Leone.
Yes, that is the right way forward for all charities, including Comic Relief. We cannot change the past and its stereotypes, but we can make a difference to the present and the future. But don’t judge Stacey Dooley unless you judge the way the whole advertising industry works and the way the world often works. Are so-called celebrities not allowed to help too? If Doritos sponsored a new hospital where it was needed would there be an outcry? No one lambasted Messi for advertising crisps, it’s all a bit of fun, and of course he’s such a great footballer, isn’t he? He also diddled the tax man, but that’s OK, we forgive him because we love his football skills and those crisps!
I agree with most of what the #nowhitesaviours group says and we need to help in the right way. Bottom line, however, is that Christians are called to love their neighbours, whoever and wherever they are, and that means backing up our words with actions. The Good Samaritan was in a position to help someone in need and his heart was filled with pity for the person in need, so he helped him. Jesus tells us to go and do the same. Dooley, it doesn’t have to be a Messi business!