Overnight, [Scarlett Johansson] has become the Marie Antoinette of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, smiling regally and offering: “Let them sip soda.” (source)
We’ve been following carefully how actor Scarlett Johansson (a.k.a Scarjo) was forced last week to choose between her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador and as the face of soft-drink machine maker Sodastream.
This is the banned TV advert that was due to be shown at half time during Superbowl 2014, the ‘most watched’ TV show in the US. What values are expressed here?
Johansson’s dual role was seen by BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) activists as contradictory, to say the least. An Ambassador for an NGO publicly opposed to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories was being paid to promote a product made in a factory located in illegally occupied Palestinian territories. She was forced to make a choice.
#NoScarJo #Stodastream Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam amid SodaStream row – #c4news http://t.co/QgtV8ZN8ob
— War on Want (@WarOnWant) January 30, 2014
There is a literature on celebrities’ involvement in NGO campaigns and commodity activism (e.g. this book). Many people are cynical about their motives for doing this kind of work. But, Scarlett Johansson’s choice last week resulted in sustained mainstream media attention being paid to Israel’s Occupation and its (il)legality.
The thing about celebrities and celebrity-obsessed cultures is that the media follows them. #ScarJo helped highlight Israeli occupation
— Yousef Munayyer (@YousefMunayyer) January 30, 2014
This unfolding story has been told both through more traditional, information-based news stories and through bleakly humorous cultural activism. Here at followthethings.com, we’re interested in how serious news and biting humour allow their audiences to appreciate relations between producers and consumers of everyday things, the forces that can shape those relations, and the power they and other actors (e.g. this food retailer) can have in reshaping those relations in more just and equitable ways. Below we showcase two ways in which this celebrity Sodastream controversy has been reported on TV in the UK;
1. News: Jeremy Paxman interview on Newsnight (BBC2 TV)
2. Comedy: from Charlie Brooker’s ‘Weekly wipe’ (BBC4 TV)
As another celebrity, Russell Brand, has recently argued:
Serious causes can and must be approached with good humour, otherwise they’re boring and can’t compete with the Premier League and Grand Theft Auto (source).
This could be useful quote to start a discussion.
But the story isn’t over. There’s plenty of detective work that could be done. Students could, for example, examine how this media storm began, how it developed, who it affects, and what’s happening now. Here’s a box of tweets, bringing everything together with the hashtag #noscarjo: