Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Priyanka Chopra: do we really need role models like this?

When you think about it, Priyanka Chopra  gains from her association with green causes than the greens she says she's supporting

I have a drawer filled with newspaper clippings that frustrate me. I write about some, and some end up in the kabadi--there's just not enough time to do justice to all the outrageous things going on in the world these days.  I was sorting out those clippings the other day when I found this lovely piece in The Hindu about NDTV's "green ambassador," Priyanka Chopra. On behalf of NDTV and Toyota, Chopra was giving out cash awards and certificates to motivate green activists. This from the article:
Ms. Chopra said ever since she became a green ambassador, a number of netizens were actively following what she wrote and said.  “It feels great to be part of the campaign. For the past two years, Greenathon has been doing amazing things to protect our environment; it brought light to 150 villages. When we, as actors, get acknowledged with an award for our acting skills, then it motivates us to put our best foot forward. Similarly, when we would honour unsung heroes who are contributing in their own special way to make our plant environment-friendly it would encourage them to do more.”
I won't complain about anyone giving cash money to green activists, though I'm not convinced it will do much good. Cash money to fund green research, or subsidies to help farmers grow food more sustainably, would make more sense. Or maybe scholarships for students who have demonstrated an interest in green issues or technology. Most of us green activists do what we do because we understand that being green is in all of our long term interest; we don't need cash prizes to convince us.

What's more, if we environmentalists ever start relying on car companies or TV stations to provide the motivation or funding for our movement, then that will be a sad day indeed. TV stations and car companies are not the kind of organizations we can rely to support anything more than superficial change--they have too much riding on the current system. Obviously.

At least this tacky hanky is reusable...
As for Ms. Chopra, well she has a pretty face, she claims she pays her taxes, and my kids loved the Krish, so I don't feel I should be too hard on her. After all, the article in The Hindu that I quoted above also says she is against killing tigers. In fact, she's even against litter:
[Ms. Chopra] said the film fraternity in Mumbai had also become environment-conscious. Earlier, film crew used to litter the sets with plastic mugs and napkins but now they dumped it in a big bag that went for recycling...“This is a cause that is close to my heart. My colleagues with whom I hang out also share my concern for doing our bit to save our planet from ecological degradation. 
But when all is said and done, being against tiger killing and litter does not qualify one to be a 'green ambassador.' And I say that not only because I hate the phrase 'brand ambassador.'  
The problem is that even while she is being called a 'green ambassador', Priyanka Chopra is serving as the poster girl for unsustainable overconsumption. It's not just Samsung and Levis--Indian Express has called Ms. Chopra the "'Face' of a million products," stating that she represents, "practically every second FMCG [Fast Moving Consumer Goods] product!" 

But Ms. Chopra is not just advertising overconsumption; she is practicing it! In the wake of the recent income tax raids on her flats, she was quoted in the Times of India as saying:
Also, it was said that I have ten flats. These are all accounted for flats and I am very proud that I bought these from my hard-earned money. I am very proud that I started so young and that at my age, I can afford so much with my hard work. And it's all accounted for – all my homes, five of which I am currently living in...
I could go on, but I don't think it's necessary. The green movement doesn't need role models like Priyanka Chopra. But it's not surprising she feels like she needs us. After all, it takes a lot of greenwash to cover 10 flats!


  1. Thats a very perceptive comment hari. reminds me of the time NBA got used by Aamir Khan, after which he returned to pushing coke

  2. Revathi Siva KumarMarch 3, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    While Green activists do not need a Priyanka, she is after all the target overconsumer---if you will---of their drives. So it doesn't hurt that she at least preaches to others of her ilk what activists want her to practice---even if she doesn't.

  3. @bamboosong--interesting parallel. I was very disappointed when that happened.
    @Revathi, Thanks for stopping by. I think the issue you raise is interesting and complex. I certainly don't think we want to hold artists, performers etc. to unrealistically high standards. We should welcome their support when they give it. But I wonder--is it more problematic when we put them center stage even when their actions run counter to their words? Do we send a confusing message about what it means to be green when we do that? Something to think about...

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