I had vowed to myself to stay out of this………but I don’t think anybody could ever accuse me of being wise this way. So here goes.
Something as well-intended and important (to all the people that receive help from Unicef around the world, but right now the people of Guinea in particular) as Tom’s trip with Unicef has, quite inexplicably to me, caused discord in the fandom and yet more fan shaming in all directions. Are you all quite serious? And I’m not even talking about the fact that some people have apparently started to dislike Tom because of it. Even more mind-boggling to me, but further proof that some people just can’t take anything at face-value and always have to search for ulterior motives.
I’ve read so many posts by now going back and forth on the subject…I’ve decided against reblogging any of them to add my comments, I’ll just address some of the issues in this way.
These are just my opinions. If you send me hate over it, your message will land in the trash bin the moment it pops up in my inbox.
1. Tom only did it for the publicity. Yes, that’s quite true…for Unicef’s publicity. Of course we all have to acknowledge the fact that this trip brought himself publicity, too, but he knew that. And he knew that he would be criticized for it. Comes with the territory. And yet he went…because he also knew that this trip would bring even more attention to Unicef. And it did. Mission accomplished. What does it matter, if some people only now, through Tom, became aware that an organisation like Unicef even exists? Or what some of the issues are that they tackle? Does it make my eyebrows rise? Do I ask myself under which rock they have lived so far? Of course it does. But NOW they know. NOW they care. They have been shaken out of their little bubble. Of course, knowing how fickle fandoms and individual fans are, for most of them their interest for Unicef will wane again…but if there are only two people that will continue to support organisations like Unicef as a result of Tom’s trip, then all is good in my book. Let’s keep an eye on the bigger picture, shall we? That is, of course, raising awareness for all the very pressing issues that need to be addressed in this world, as well as highlighting an organisation like Unicef. (If Unicef isn’t your cup of tea, then fine, find another charity to support.) I would say that Tom definitely accomplished that. Further, Tom’s involvement with Unicef and this trip has opened people’s pockets….and will continue to do so. I think that this should be the most important result of this trip, not the question of who did what for whose publicity. That just sounds incredibly petty in my ears.
2. Why was Luke with him? Why did he bring his publicist? That has to be proof that it was just a publicity stunt. Think again. Read again what Tom wrote. Not once has Tom called Luke “my publicist” in his diary entries. Instead he made it a point to call him “my friend”. The implications of this statement for their professional relationship are another matter entirely and shall not be discussed here. He also says that it was Luke who a year ago introduced him to Louise O’Shea from Unicef UK. Now, I don’t know how many of you have already been around a year ago, but in January 2012 Tom didn’t tweet about Unicef. Or any charity, for that matter. That only started to happen as the year went on and is, in my view, a reflection of his growing interest and support of Unicef…and his growing awareness that he might actually have an audience that would listen, that he might actually have some influence. All the fan-driven fundraisers that almost immediately started to pop up should have been his confirmation. So what is Luke’s role in all of this? He probably knew Louise O’Shea, because they are both in the PR business. But I also think it’s possible that Luke was a supporter of Unicef before Tom and, learning about or maybe just sensing Tom’s basic interest in their work, established first contact. It all then developed from there. Either way, and I could be completely wrong about this, I have the very strong feeling that Luke wasn’t on this trip in his capacity as Tom’s publicist. I think they were on this trip as friends and supporters of Unicef that wanted to raise awareness for their work. Luke may be a publicist, but he is also a private person, an individual with personal interests. One of them may be Unicef, which may just coincide with the interests of one of his clients. Ever thought of that?
3. Why bring a professional photographer with you? Why not? If you want to use the popularity of one of your celebrity supporters, you need him/her to be seen. And it’s not like they were doing photoshoots in the desert for high-gloss magazines with a whole team of make-up artists, hair stylists etc etc. Of course, this raises the question if the money to hire the photog couldn’t have been better used for the cause at hand. That’s admittedly a tricky one. Yes and no. Bottom line is, however, that as a charity depending on donations you need to be seen. You need people to know that you exist and what you are doing…and where their money would go. Again, you have to keep an eye on the bigger picuter, I guess. Also, I have read that the money for this kind of PR work mostly comes from different sources…and that celeb supporters often pay themselves for these trips. This photog has also worked for Unicef on numerous occasions before…and who knows, maybe he is even giving his time and work for free.
4. This is serious business. The picture of Tom in the red plaid shirt “gazing off into the distance like a model” was inappropriate and misguided, and it was inappropriate and misguided of Unicef UK to post it. How to address this? I think you are all aware that there was/is a “donation game” going on. “If Tom wears this item of clothing on the trip, I will donate 25$, if he wear that item of clothing, I will donate 30$, and another 20$ if he comes back with a beard” and so on and so forth. Unicef UK know about this game (and I assume so does Tom) and they are obviously getting a kick out of it, because have been tweeting about it, and they also tweeted the pic you see above. And you know what? If they don’t have a problem with it and don’t find it inappropriate, then I don’t either. They are the ones directly involved in this work, they are the ones on the front line. I’d rather take their word for what is or is not appropriate than the word of someone sitting on a comfortable couch judging other peope’s hard work. Also, it may raise another couple of hundreds of dollars, and what could be wrong about that? Let’s keep an eye on the bigger picture. I also don’t get why people may think that, while this trip had a very serious cause and I’m sure many many very serious and shocking moments, there couldn’t or shouldn’t have been any fun for this team? Do you seriously believe that they drove around the country for a whole week being utterly depressed and crying all the time? They didn’t, and I’m glad for it. After seeing abject poverty and desperately ill babies for most of the day, I think it’s incredibly important to let off some steam, to laugh and make jokes and just plain alleviate the pressure…even if it’s just a moment of lightness like shooting a pic for a donation game. That doesn’t mean that you are forgetting even for one second why you are there in the first place…..and how absolutely serious and important your “mission” is. It just means that you are trying to keep your sanity.
5. This is serious business. The Blues Brothers picture was inappropriate and misguided, and it was inappropriate and misguided to post it. Get a grip. It’s just a snapshot. They were probably on a break or even meeting with another round of town elders/community authorities. Do you seriously believe that Tom and Luke went “oh, let’s put on our sun glasses and take a cool picture of us pretending to be Blues Brothers”??? It anything, blame the photographer for putting this caption on it (he tweeted the pic, after all)…but before you do this, re-read what I just wrote about finding moments of lightness and fun even on a trip like this. And above all, go and put on some looser fitting pants, Jesus Christ…
6. Hyperbole by fans/fan shaming in all directions. Just stop. All this seperating the fandom into “sane” and “crazy” fans is counter-productive and only furthers antagonism. Yes, there are aspects of this fandom, or actions by individual fans, that repulse me…that shock me, that make me shake my head, that also make me plain angry. Some people just have no filters whatsoever, no self-awareness, no manners…they just seem to run rampant. Poor Tom, indeed. But still, I consider myself a part of this fandom, and I’m tired of having to read over and over again how horrible Tom’s fans are. I’m tired of having to read how the “sane” fans are so much better than the “crazy” ones. I’m tired of having to read from fans that have left this fandom in a huff because it is so horrible…only to return in moments like these to lecture the fandom on how horrible it is…or to turn up on sites like ONTD to bash it. If you have turned your back on the fandom and maybe even Tom, then stay away for good. And if you are still a fan of Tom but don’t want to be associated with the rest of the fandom, then carve out your own little corner of tumblr/the internet, where you only engage with other fans that are on your wavelength, and stay away from the TH tag. Equally, stop putting Tom on a pedestal. Stop gushing over pictures of Tom with babies, when said babies are on the verge of dying. Calm the fuck down and keep perspective. Stop telling fans that are critical of what Tom does that they should fuck off and have no right to tell themselves fans. Learn to try to stay away from drama. Just, everybody chill the fuck out.
Keep one thing in mind about this trip of Tom’s for Unicef: do you believe that people in Guinea or anywhere else in the world that get help from Unicef, that are just trying to survive, care for even one second how this money is being raised? Do you believe they care? Do you believe it even matters? Do you think it’s fair to say “I can’t get behind it, because some celeb is only trying to get publicity” when at the same time children are dying from malnutrition or disease? Do you think they care for these first world problems?
No? Good. Then shut up, let charities like Unicef and their celeb supporters do their work, and donate. And if you don’t feel like donating, then fine, but shup up about that, also.
What? This is even a thing? WOW. Of course Tom is an ambassador! If one person can make a huge difference, why complain about it?