Headlines have often highlighted the charitable donations of the elite and praised them for their generosity and good nature. The fight against Australian wildfires has most recently been a prime example of celebrities doing good deeds. Several celebrities have donated hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to stop the brush fires that have killed 27 people and an estimated one billion animals.
Given their platform, wealth and resources, it seems like a waste for celebrities to not take part in good deeds or make some effort to better the world around them. If a celebrity were to refrain from any charitable causes, the public would probably view them as selfish. Celebrity activism has become such an expectation for those in the limelight that when we feel that they aren’t taking part in such good deeds, they become subject to public scrutiny.
Kylie Jenner faced this backlash after posting about the crisis in Australia and then soon after posting a picture of mink slippers she was wearing. Fans and critics alike called Jenner out for the hypocrisy of the post and voiced their anger over what they perceived as lack of action on the billionaire’s part. Jenner’s sister, Kim Kardashian West, responded to the critics through Twitter by writing, “Nothing gets me more heated than to see people think they know what we donated to and to think we have to publicize everything.”
While granted, all of this drama is stemming from reality TV stars who don’t necessarily have the best track records or public reputations, Kim’s tweet does bring up a good point about celebrity activism and good deeds. Does the public have the right to know if and to what extent celebrities are participating in good deeds?
Websites often post “heartwarming” or “selfless celeb” articles of various celebrities doing good things. Rarely does a celebrity volunteer somewhere or host some sort of charity event without it being covered extensively by the press and written about in the most positive light. So, when the public witnesses social media posts about celebrities and their donations, volunteering or other charitable actions, it’s almost like we are expected to respond in a manner of adoration or appreciation for such good deeds. However, a more cynical view is the critique that good deeds do not require publicity.
If we never knew that celebrities donated to charitable causes, volunteered their time or hosted fundraisers, would we still expect them to do it? This notion governs celebrities and for regular people too. When people video themselves handing out meals to the homeless or giving out bags with essential items in them, the question must be asked, “was this videoed to promote doing good for others, or to promote your own “selflessness?”
Altruism is a principle or moral practice of selfless concern for the wellbeing of others. If you are acting unselfishly to benefit others, then there would be no need for the general public to know about your actions.
The argument can be made, though, that seeing other people’s good deeds has the potential to inspire someone to do good themselves. Posting about your good deeds, telling others about it or, if you’re a celebrity, having your publicists share how much money you have donated, could encourage other people to do the same. If that were the case, then motivation aside, publicizing good deeds may be what’s best for our society as a whole.
The social obligation that celebrities face is more of an act of accountability on the public’s part. Following the Australian wildfires, social media users were speaking out through the comment sections of popular users and accounts to spread awareness and to take action about the crisis. Now, if it takes social pressure to urge someone to do something, the genuineness of those actions is certainly lost. However, on such a scale as celebrities, where the good deeds and charitable donations can measure up to millions of dollars, it’s important that they use their platforms for some good.
Even if they aren’t exactly out of strict altruistic motivation, if celebrity actions inspire other celebrities to donate millions to a charitable cause, we should take their “heartwarming” or “inspiring” actions with a grain of salt and just hope that some real good comes from them.