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

Lim, M. and 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.


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.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Spectacle, Charity, Celebrity, Hero, Guy Debord, Comic Relief.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of Marketing Management on 11/03/2015, available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:17 February 2015
Date of first online publication:11 March 2015
Date first made open access:11 September 2016

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