I am in love with The Jaquie Brown Diaries, the media parody show on TV3. It chronicles the life of quirky light relief TV reporter Jaquie Brown, a self-absorbed, status-obsessed egotist. The satirical persona is meant to be a send-up of the "Don't you know who I am?" type of media narcissist who pushes to the front of fashion show queues.
Scarily, I find myself relating to this abhorrent character. Sure, I have never worn a life-size penis costume to do a story or slept with Anika Moa, but I have embarrassed myself in myriad other self-promoting ways that make me cringe with recognition.
In last week's episode Jaquie Brown decided she wanted to do some charity work. "I know when I'm properly famous I'll be able to give lots of money to charity and shit, but surely there's something I can be doing in the meantime?" she writes wistfully in her diary. She enlists her publicist to find her a "special needs" child to mentor. When she sees the girl, Dayna, Jaquie Brown is disappointed she is post-puberty, not cute, and wants to go to Burger King rather than do something quaint such as visiting the zoo.
Like Jaquie Brown, I have been thinking a bit about charity work. It must be my age or something - blame hormones, the rain, the recession - but I catch myself thinking I ought to do some volunteer work. Wacky, eh? My right-wing chums like blogger Cactus Kate will think I am a dirty old leftie saying this, but if you don't want a nanny state, you have to believe that people will engage in altruistic behaviour of their own volition. They will help out rather than saying "I gave at the office" and expecting Aunty Helen to do it. But frankly, these days being a do-gooder is not as easy as you might imagine. I think we have all got out of practice, except for school fundraising of course, but I don't think that counts since it is self-serving. Genuinely helping out for charity has become a personal branding statement rather than simply something you do because it's expected.
When I was a kid, my mum was always doing various unglamorous good works through the church. In those days there was no question of finding something that "utilised your unique skills" or involved setting up some kind of semi-entrepreneurial venture, a foundation, a celebrity art auction or black tie ball drawing on one's dazzling networks. I feel so confused at the charity options on offer, I end up doing nothing.
My friend, PR guru Deborah Pead, kindly suggested I could get involved in a gardening project she is organising for schools to grow vegetables, but I am completely rubbish at gardening. Other people I know work for a cause close to a loved one: autism or breast cancer. My problem is I really do just want all the little children and fluffy animals to have full tummies, which is not a good basis for becoming a do-gooder in these days of niches, mentoring and target markets.
Perhaps the problem comes from the trend towards celebrity charity endorsements. As my doppelganger Jaquie Brown notes, 95 per cent of doing good as a celebrity is simply turning up: "Imagine the joy I will bring to people's tragic lives just by allowing them to meet and interact with a real television personality. Gawd, I just thought of doing something for charity completely unprompted. I'm so nice."
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The Government may not have announced the election date, but it is covertly in full-on campaign mode. Check out the diaries of Cabinet ministers. They are busy hustling and schmoozing: who knows how they find time to run the country. Don't believe me? Prime Minister Helen Clark made a request to speak to a Thorndon coffee group. Doesn't she have anything more important to do?
Actually, this is no ordinary coffee group. It is called SGB.net (Still Got a Brain) and was started seven months ago by former Qantas journalist of the year Belinda Milnes and former IBM public affairs manager Rachel Dahlberg. The pair decided to set up the group when they were moaning that they knew more about Wiggles lyrics than what was going on in the world and didn't want their brains to turn to mush. The group now has 150 members, mainly professional women like Milnes who have stepped out of the corporate rat race to have kids.
The group, which starts each meeting with a current affairs quiz, has already had Rodney Hide and John Key speak and this week got Helen Clark and Labour Central candidate Grant Robertson. Persuading Ms Milnes to vote Labour would be a coup, since she is the sister of the National Party's Selwyn candidate Amy Adams.