You probably know by now that I’m not a great fan of Bono, or any of the other development celebrities, of whom Bono seems the head cheerleader. But his latest Louis Vuitton campaign really does make me cringe. Tired imagery: Bono and his wife Ali emerging from a prop plane in the middle of the African bush looking suitably wealthy and rock and roll in their expensive Vuitton kit. Basically a sexed-up Out of Africa. Tired copy: “Every journey began in Africa.” Does the sentimental lore about Africa really help the cause? And tired charity concept: Buy expensive stuff because part of it comes from Africa.
Make no mistake the whole campaign looks beautiful, with lots of idyllic bush imagery and neat villages, more sunrises and giraffes than people. It was shot by Annie Leibovitz, after all. And the initiative, itself, looks perfectly adequate, if not very similar to work done by dozens of other NGOs. It’s all actually fine—if only it didn’t have that smug patina about it.
Maybe that’s what gets to me the most about the celebrity development crowd: that they look so very pleased with themselves. That the immense privilege and status that characterises the rest of their lives makes them believe unblinkingly in their power as do-gooders.
I know I’m supposed to applaud them, so why do I always want to wipe the smiles or faux gravitas off of their faces?