One of the less depressing things around at the moment – and between the weather and the multiple international crises there is plenty to depress – is laughing at this odd thing about ice buckets. It seems pretty much everyone in the public eye is involved and it is quite fascinating to see what has basically become a giant public game of dare.
The fact it is all wrapped up in a charity drive gives the silliness some authenticity, but in the end it is all rather silly. I feel I can say that considering my own charity based recent endeavours (potentially even sillier) but what interests me this week is not so much what or why but the very fact the thing exists at all and more worryingly, what might be next.
I guess it is partly an artefact of the social media age. Nothing could spread quite this fast without the likes of Facebook and Twitter to propagate it. I guess also I should expect it to become wall to wall – by its nature this nomination process means an exponential growth for the period it is still trendy, which my spider sense suggests is just coming to an end.
Even within the current fad there has been a natural push to stand out and to perhaps be funnier, or more extreme. I don’t think this is a problem if we are talking about people in the celebrity eye because most of them have agents and the like who will be quite interested to make sure it is properly staged and not too stupid or dangerous. The less well advised among us though may not have those checks and balances and while the risk from pouring a bucket of cold water over your head is probably pretty low (another reason for popularity?), people can come up with some surprisingly weird and wacky variations.
There is a dark side to this – individuals can have their arms twisted by the threat of peer pressure and whacked by the velvet glove of ‘it’s for charity’. Not everyone is strong enough to ignore it/say no and not feel bad about it. It can get out of hand and people can get hurt – if not physically then the mental strain of either being forced to do something they do not want to do or face accusations of being a stick in the mud or a coward.
But, as I say, I’m more worried about the next phase, because there will be one. This whole thing appears to have been so successful in fund raising that I’m sure the next phase is already percolating somewhere. The bandwagon is rolling along and people will still continue to jump on it or take inspiration (if that is the right word) from it.
It reminds me of the whole nude/nearly nude calendar craze. The original Calendar Girls story is funny and innovative and rightly caught attention. But I don’t honestly think we need the endless supply of copycats that still limp on today (mostly involving fit students which kind of unfortunately make them increasingly look like exercises in objectification). It is well past the sell buy date as an idea and it is not funny anymore (although I am sure there is a spectrum between class and crass). Also, I am not sure everyone persuaded to take part realised the legacy for themselves – those pictures are always going to be out there, thank you again dear internet. My recent unclothed activity did have to be done through the filter of acknowledging that something I would not like might turn up out there. If I did not accept that then I would not have done it – but I am old and ugly so I do not care too much (well, mostly).
Another example is charity singles – in the mid to late 80s you could not move for the things and for every ‘Do they Know it’s Christmas?’ there were several versions of ‘Doctor in Distress’ (and yes, I maybe one of the few people who bought that – indeed I have the true horror that is the twelve inch version of that. If you don’t know what I mean, then https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p1AjE4eDH8 but honestly, folks, just say no. Oh hang on, that’s a different cringe inducing experience, isn’t it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCLs0jv_Efk ).
So I am waiting for the depressing and inevitable slide into mediocrity of the current craze and hope fervently that what replaces it is well thought out and witty. I’m not holding my breath though (and that’s not a suggestion either). And no, I haven’t been nominated for the ice bucket challenge. Yes, I would do it (going running in the UK about guarantees at some point an identical effect). What I am not sure about is who I would then nominate and whether I would do that at all. People should not need to be challenged to be charitable.