By Myrlia Purcell on
For those who’ve missed it, Ms. Johansson has stepped down as a Global Ambassador for Oxfam after failing to come to a compromise over her endorsement of SodaStream, which has a factory on land captured by Israel in the war of 1967.
The inquiring writer’s apparent angle – and the sensational reporting of the split by the media as they picked one side or the other – left us feeling perplexed.
Some news sites largely ignored Scarlett’s past philanthropic track record, as though her eight years of service and awareness-raising campaigns meant nothing in light of her current choices.
Ms. Johansson has taken a job – as is her right – and, sadly, this job is incompatible with her Ambassadorial commitments. Yet if she doesn’t continue to work, she will ultimately diminish her ability to give back to society. Perhaps she could have chosen a different job, but she has every right to make her own decisions, and as someone who has proven herself to be open to learning about the world, we have to assume that she has made the decision that feels right to her.
The line of rhetoric that surprised us most, however, was that in standing by their principles, Oxfam may have damaged their reputation.
Showing integrity and commitment to what they believe is highly unlikely to turn off the people who support them, whereas acquiescing in order to retain a celebrity spokesperson might.
The people of Oxfam work very hard to help those who are suffering, and while I’m sure they are disappointed that she is resigning, I can’t see that it will affect their dedication to Oxfam’s work, or the public’s appreciation for it.
People who know the important projects that Oxfam carries out are not likely to value the organization any less due to Ms. Johansson accepting an incompatible job. In fact, I would hope that the public would respect Oxfam’s willingness to part ways with one of their many celebrity supporters so as to maintain their integrity.
But will this rift lead to celebrities around the world choosing to abandon their philanthropic commitments?
If we consider that celebrities are just as human as the rest of us, many of those who are dedicating time and energy to their cause are doing it because they truly believe they can make a difference.
Passion for a cause will not be shaken because of an imagined unlikely future scenario, so those who are genuine in their actions are not likely to walk away.
All parties – as well as the press and public – need to keep in mind that there’s no reason to expect a lifelong commitment. Scarlett has been an ambassador for Oxfam for eight years, which is highly commendable. Clearly both parties are no longer focused on the same mission, and so it is time to move on. Oxfam has many other celebrity and non-celebrity supporters who will continue to help them accomplish their goals.
On the positive side, the sensationalistic reporting of the situation has encouraged a number of journalists to present the issue to the public, giving it more attention than it would have received had Ms. Johansson simply continued on as an Oxfam Ambassador.
So, have Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson destroyed celebrity giving? No, not at all. Celebrities still care, charities still appreciate their help, and we’re happy to see anybody striving to make a difference.
Note: Look To The Stars is not in any way connected to either Ms. Johansson or Oxfam.
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