Celebrity Colonialism: What Stands Behind the “Missionary Acts”?

By Svetlana Fenichel

Celebrity colonialism and international adoptions present a complex, multi-dimensional issue, which similar to an iceberg only reveals its above-the-water part. The real danger remains hidden under the water.   Adam Elkus considers the possible motivations that instigate Western celebrities to travel all over the world and suffer through the painstaking process of international adoptions (which they seem to be able to effectively alleviate) given that in their own countries millions of children are available for adoption. One of the possibilities Elkus sees in the desire of powerful Western women to be in a possession of “an “exotic” baby, appropriating a symbol of Africa to give literal weight to their oft-stated solidarity with the oppressed.” A dark–skinned body of an African child becomes a commodity, a visible proof of a celebrity’s personal contribution into the global fight against poverty. Or as Elkus puts it, “for dilettante celebrities who believe they are serious crusaders against injustice, an “exotic” baby is an ego-boosting accessory akin to a Kabala red string bracelet, which similarly gives religious status to secular stars searching for “deep” meaning.”

By means of “grotesque manifestation of colonial privilege” world saviors like Madonna, Jolie and the like come to the rescue of children in the impoverished countries. Both of the world stars by means of “dubious legality” received an access to the innocent bodies of the children. Jolie got her baby by virtue of advantageous to her girl’s biological mother financial situation; “Madonna had “bought” the ruling through her extravagant patronage of Malawian orphanages” (Elkus).

The literary heroes of postcolonial texts, Nyasha and Claude, successfully transformed the space of their bodies into the tool of fighting dreadful consequences of colonial power. In case of Hollywood adoptions, the children are being transformed into what Elkus referred to as “exotic objects rather than human beings.” Being stripped to the sole space of their physical bodies they become the victims of neo-colonial practices employed by power bearing community of Western celebrities.

 

 

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