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So I really wanted my next post to be something positive. I can’t say I’d given it much thought so it’s not like I had anything planned, but I’d considered that I hadn’t written anything for a while and wouldn’t it be a nice change to do something lighter.

Then I heard about TwitRelief.

Comic Relief is a great charity and it brings back lots of childhood memories. Not anything specific, just feelings of being a kid with Red Nose Day coming up and knowing that lots of exciting and fun things would be happening at school etc. etc. I have very warm feelings toward Comic Relief, but this latest idea has left me feeling frankly a bit sick.

I touched on my feelings of ‘celebrity’ in my last post, how it seems to me that we (primarily western culture) are obsessed with it. Celebrities are placed upon pedestals so far above us lowly proles that they appear almost ethereal, like they are something more than human. I’ve never been able to work out quite why we place so much value in them yet still, they seem to fascinate us and shine before us as idols to be emulated and respected. Whereas once you had to endure years of academic study and practical experience in order to become an expert at something, celebrities are automatically considered to be experts in every field. No one will watch a TV show where normal people do things any more. With the exception of those circuses known as ‘X-Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ etc., there are few cooking shows or dancing competitions with real, normal, average people in it. Now we have ‘Celebrity Masterchef’ and ‘Celebrity Dancing on Ice’. And if they’re not competing in something against other shining examples of the human machine, they’re judging the lowly plebs while they compete amongst themselves for an ounce of praise like children pining for their parent’s approval. If it’s not a celebrity doing it, it’s not interesting as far as the masses are concerned.  They are more beautiful, intelligent, interesting and worthy than us. In short, they are plain and simply better than us.

And this is where TriwRelief comes in.

TwitRelief is an offer from the celebrities to step down from their pedestals and acknowledge the existence of their lesser human counterparts. They have pledged to do this by holding an auction for their attention on eBay and the lucky (read: wealthy) winner they have graciously agreed to ‘super-follow’ on Twitter. To be precise, the offer is as follows:

The ‘Super-Follow’ means that [enter wonderfully selfless celebrity’s name here] will do ALL of these things…
1.    Follow you on Twitter for 90 days
2.    Retweet one of your tweets
3.    Send out a tweet including your Twitter @username Not only that, they will also retweet one of your tweets, and mention you (or @ you) in another tweet.

In some auctions it goes on:

And as if that weren’t enough,

As if that weren’t enough?!?! Give me a fucking break! As if what weren’t enough? They’ll follow you on Twitter?! So fucking what? There’s no guarantee they’ll actually read anything you tweet (except perhaps the one thing they’re obliged to re-tweet. Unless of course you’re offensive in any way in which case they reserve the right to stop following you at any time. After all “Respect for the Celebrity and Comic Relief is expected at all times”). And what exactly are they doing for the charity? You’re the one who’s paid thousands of pounds for this ‘privilege’ (most if not all of the auctions are in the thousands at the time of writing) and they’ve barely promised to give up any of their time, let alone a portion of their wealth. I don’t see anyone offering to sit in a bath of cold baked beans for 3 hours, shave their head or face their fear of heights and jump out of a plane.

Now the defenders of TwitRelief have cried out that there are prizes on offer! It’s not just the celebrity offering to follow the winner on Twitter, but they’re giving away well thought out, fun prizes too! Ok. Let’s take a look at some of the prizes… ranked by current highest price first:

Rufus Hound: Your full name tattooed on Rufus’ calf. Seriously.
Lily Allen: Day at football/Cricket with Lily or girly night
Emma Freud: Walk on extra part in Richard Curtis’ next film. Ooooh.
James Corden: Raymond Weil watch, 2 show tickets, and a drink
Caitlin Moran: Hour in the pub. Booze. Fags. Gossip. Maybe a snog.

Now I can’t deny, the walk on part in the film is very cool and having someone tattoo your name onto their leg is much more in keeping with the spirit of ‘sacrifice’ that thousands of people take part in in order to raise money themselves. But an hour in the pub? A second-hand watch (I’m sure it’s a very fancy watch… but really…)? Maybe you think these prizes are all fabulous and that’s absolutely fair enough. My issue is with the attitude of the whole thing. Isn’t this supposed to be about Comic Relief? About helping people in need? Let’s take a look at the way Lily Allen’s auction is written:

And as if that weren’t enough,

4.    Ummm. This might be the best and coolest prize in the history of best and coolest prizes. Lily Allen (THE LILY ALLEN) is going to take you and a friend to the football or to the cricket – YOU decide.   So you, and whoever you want to phenomenally impress, are going to sit NEXT TO HER. At the football or at the Cricket. *gulps*  And then, you’re going to wave her goodbye and go off for a gorgeous dinner with your friend in a lovely restaurant chosen by Lily. And THEN, when you ask for the bill the waiter will say “No, no, Miss Allen has ALREADY PAID. For you – NO CHARGE.” Classy isn’t it? It’s the FA CUP of giftage.  The ASHES of auction prizes.

OR… (Yes. You get to bloody choose)

You can choose a swanky handbag from Lily’s personal collection which is a present for you from her.  AND enjoy an evening with three (THREE!!!) of your mates at Lily’s clothes shop Lucy in Disguise where you are going to be fitted for a sensational dress to hire,  sip cocktails AND have your hair and make up done. GIRLY!

Which one do you want?  You can have EITHER!*

SO BID NOW!!! Lily Allen will become your twitter best friend, Comic Relief will spend ALL the money you bid on life-changing projects, and the sun will shine.  (That last bit about the sun might not be true).

*Both choices to take place in London. Travel and accommodation not included.

Amazing. Notice the first couple of capitalised parts. Yes, it’s THE Lily Allen. No, you’re not dreaming, THE Lily Allen. Isn’t it incredible?! The real Lily Allen is going to do something with you. Not only that, but she will actually sit next to you. Imagine it! Just the thought of the great Lily Allen lowering herself so far to your level as to sit next to you! What an honour!

So you’ll forgive me for not supporting this particular idea. I’m sure it will raise a lot of money for Comic Relief, so at least that’s something but I also have to wonder quite what a lot of these winners are expecting? At the end of the day, these ‘celebrities’ are spending time with the winners because they are obliged to. How awkward are the phonecalls and meetings going to be?! “Oh hi, it’s [name]. I’m calling because you paid £3000 for my auction on eBay… so… how’s it going?”

Mostly though it makes me sad to think that we now have to offer these sort of things as incentives in order to give to charity. When did we reach the point where we started thinking “I’d really like to help those children in Africa, but what’s in it for me?” Maybe it’s not as bad as I think though, I guess you could say that the incentive is just to get people to give more, but in all honesty I find this whole thing incredibly distasteful.

What happened to good old fashioned charity and fund raising?