Ice Ice Baby – Sunday Times Focus







If you have somehow got through this week without anyone dumping a bucket of icy water over your head and posting the video on YouTube then basically you have failed at modern life. You may as well shut down Facebook, sign off Twitter, call the two friends you have left and tell them you are retiring under a rock. There is no place for you in this brave new world.

In an age where “I internet therefore I am”, the ice bucket challenge is proof you exist. Soon there will be no one left on earth who has not undertaken it, and certainly no one you’d recognise. By “it” I mean posted a video online of themselves being drenched with ice water, in what is essentially a charity wet T-shirt competition, to raise money for the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) Association (in the US) and Motor Neurone Disease Association and Macmillan cancer support (in the UK).

As viral charity crazes go, the ice bucket challenge is more contagious than #nomakeupselfie, #cockinasock and Movember combined. The new plague of the internet, it is to click-tivism what Grumpy Cat is to memes. It has been completed by Oprah, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (the artist formerly known as Cheryl Cole), Lena Dunham, Ashton Kutcher, Cara Delevingne, Eva Longoria and Eddie Redmayne. Victoria Beckham did it squealing. David Beckham did it topless. Never have so many celebrities stood united by one purpose, except in a pre-Oscars gifting suite of course.

Last week even George “Dubya” Bush did the ice bucket challenge from his ranch. “I do not think it’s presidential for me to be splashed with ice water,” worries the former president who painted naked self-portraits, before his wife Laura pours a bucket over his head, laughing: “I don’t have to ruin my hairstyle.”

Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, took the challenge after being nominated by her daughter Bee Shaffer, having her perfectly coiffed hair soaked by three buckets at once (when they call her the Ice Queen, this is not what they mean). The skit, which ends with Wintour flirtily daring Roger Federer to do it, is so good it has earned its own gif.




The vagueness (and shallowness) of this kind of click-tivism was highlighted earlier this year when #nomakeupselfie trended, and thousands of people texted the wrong donations details, accidentally sending money to other good causes. Many who texted the word “bear” instead of “beat” got a text message from the WWF thanking them for “choosing an adorable polar bear”. Similarly, during the #cockinasock campaign many failed to include the charity text number in their dares, let alone any reference to cancer prevention.

Is the ice bucket challenge any different? Is it heartfelt help or just celebrity narcissism? If we really want to donate to a good cause why make a song, dance and YouTube clip out of it? Perhaps we should be more like Barack Obama, who declined the nomination Bieber gave him this week, saying he would donate money instead.

But for most celebrities the incentive to take the ice bucket challenge is obvious: it is a stage-managed publicity stunt that reminds us how generous they can be and how great their lives look. So Giselle did hers, tanned legs drenched in sunlight, like a Sports Illustrated cover. Simon Cowell did his on his yacht.

Read the full feature here:

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