J500 Media and the Environment


The Groping Governor and Guilt of Gore by denzylj
February 12, 2008, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics

There’s something to be said about being machismo. All those rippling muscles, the oil, the perfect tan, the testosterone oh so palpable – a definite turn-on for the ladies. And the envy of puny souls like me. No wonder then that Arnie, who has built his career, not on his wonderful Austrian charm or his way with the English language, but through pure brawn, hopes for the dawn of a new era in the environmental movement by jazzing up its image.

Remember last week, the prognosis of some greenies was that it was all but dead and buried. Today it’s been resurrected and the second coming is envisaged to be leaner, more sexy, more mainstream. Who needed those dreaded carrot-chomping lefty sorts with their tie dye hemps and bushy armpits right? The en vogue environmentalist is the one with the Prius, a snappy dresser spouting platitudes about eco-friendly living and the dismal state of the planet if global warming is not curbed. The buzzword then was “Peace.” Now it’s “Change.” But exactly how is the question. How do you sex-up a movement? Do you have a think tank of creative PR, ad experts and environmental activists working on marketing a lifestyle change to millions of people and polluting industries that have no notion of corporate accountability?

Arnie’s done an about turn. He was the cigar-smoking Hollywood star, driving his gas guzzling Hummer around California whilst giving the “Up Yours” index finger to the trailing greenies. He’s baaaaack. Thankfully this time it’s not with some hi-tech, million-rounds-a-second firing weapon at a never say die alien. Now his armory is filled with tough talk and the enemy of pollution is just as resilient. Of course, his record on the passage, or lack thereof, of environmental bills is not without blemish and his penchant for groping women has been the butt (pardon the pun) of many jokes over the years. Not the best person perhaps to lead the charge, but his high profile status and position of political influence does help the cause.

Add that to the drive by Al Gore and you have an interesting mix. Its the doom and gloom versus the sexy and attractive – competing approaches for a common end goal of sustainable living. Hollywood and the music industry has its fair share of heavyweights committed to various causes – Angelina Jolie is doing her bit as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, George Clooney working as a UN Peace Envoy, Bono for social justice causes in third world countries – all of whom and more could give the movement the momentum it needs to have growing appeal, to raise consciousness and call to global action on climate change. Using committed celebrities could be the starting point to focus more attention on the environment, the language of how that’s dressed up will follow.

– Denzyl

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3 Comments so far
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Fantastic analysis, Denzyl. You have not only shown where sex has sold (Clooney, Jolie) but why. The dichotomy of trying to sustain a movement over the longterm while also capitalizing on buzz that is short-term is challenging and, I think, requires us to channel our inner futurists and always be one step ahead of the conversation
This video is a conversation between Graham Hill (founder of TreeHugger), the creators of
World Changing, and me trying to address this very question.

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

Great post, Denzyl…but, have you seen pictures of Ah-nuld with his shirt off lately? Not exactly bringing “sexy back.”

Meanwhile, Bono–of the super-celebs you cite–actually has done a great deal of environmental activism (and it’s possible the others have, too…) I recently saw him in a pretty amazing interview with (none other than) Al Gore, which was aired on C-Span a couple of weeks back. They were discussing environmental issues, mostly as they related to global poverty issues. Fascinating stuff.

Anyway, point being that the environmental movement has its share of super-celebs: Leo DiCaprio, Sheryl Crow, Ed Begley Jr.,…okay, that last one might be a stretch for super-celeb, but I like him! They do a lot of good, but ultimately, like you say, the best they do is create buzz…celebs are most effective, in my opinion, when they motivate people to motivate lawmakers to change policy, and when they influence market trends (eco-friendly businesses). If they accomplish those two tasks then they prove to be incredibly important figures in the movemt.

Ranjit A

Comment by Ranjit

Simran, those discussions, even at an informal level are useful if they broaden one’s understanding of issues and how to address matters like projecting a new way forward to make the environment relevant, topical and to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger “mainstream.”

Ranjit, do pardon my ignorance about some of the celebs you cited doing their bit for the cause. Maybe, it’s just my own limited exposure to U.S. media in the past that’s to blame. But yes, I think using their position of influence either with lawmakers, like Bono does with the G8, or among their millions of fans around the world, puts them in a pretty good position to articulate concerns about how destructive we’ve become and what we need to do to reverse environmental degradation. And really I think its the media too that needs to set the right agenda and limit their obsession with celebrity coverage, be it Paris Hilton’s nightclubbing antics or the color of her pet dog’s pooh is and the shenanigans of Britney Spears has become, frankly a bit boring. I’d rather watch grass grow.

-Denzyl

Comment by denzylj




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