Raising Africa?: Celebrity and the Rhetoric of the White Saviour

Katherine M. Bell
2013 PORTAL: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies  
The 'White Saviour' has long been a vehicle for celebrities in Hollywood film. From Lawrence of Arabia (dir. Lean 1962) to Blood Diamond (dir. Zwick 2006), from the Indiana Jones franchise that began in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir. Spielberg) to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (dir. West 2001), actors perform roles as heroes who save the day against all odds and thwart dark and ominous adversaries (Shohat 1991; Shome 1996; Dyer 1997) . Pop stars take on characters and 'exotic' identities as
more » ... ell, from the heroic, virginal, and steadfast, to the sexy, bad and 'ethnic,' as with Madonna's Geisha, Evita or Indian Summer personas (Fouz-Hernández 2004). And with increasing visibility, the famous perform real-life hero roles as philanthropists who endorse and fund a variety of social causes around the so-called 'developing' world. This essay explores how the celebrity philanthropist is constructed as redeemer of distant Others and how this philanthropic role mingles with a celebrity's on-stage personas to create the White Saviour, a powerful brand of contemporary cultural authority. Africa is a particular focus of celebrity gaze in recent years, a development that I take up here by looking at three iconic celebrities: Bono, Madonna and Angelina Jolie. These and other well-known people deploy their fame in/on the continent in a complex admixture of spectacle and branding, using a range of philanthropic models. Rock star Bono's Product RED campaign raises money to fight HIV/AIDS in six African countries. It is a cause marketing effort that partners with iconic brands to sell designated products; companies give a percentage of sales toward the cause. Madonna Bell Raising Africa?
doi:10.5130/portal.v10i1.3185 fatcat:qusl3sdogvgc7jy4ohayq6it2i