[blog] the Ice Bucket Challenge as a pop culture phenomenon

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to look at the social and medical relevance of the recent fad to hit the entertainment industry across the world. I’m talking about the Ice Bucket Challenge that started in mid-2013 as a “cold water challenge” to raise funds and awareness for cancer research. But it was only this year when the focus shifted to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and became viral.

Instead, this post aims to look at IBC as a pop culture phenomenon with big names like Barack Obama (he donated) and Bill Gates among those challenged. In Asia, top Korean, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Chinese celebrities have taken the challenge. But no, this is not about whether they added to the awareness and relevance of the cause or how much they donated. I leave that to real journalism and this is a blog (let me just say this again: my blog and my Twitter account do not have anything to do with my work so please don’t expect “frontline journalism” there, araeso?).


Looking at it from a social behavior perspective, the Ice Bucket Challenge has revealed dynamics in the entertainment industry. In a way, it has become a measure of a celebrity’s popularity, though to be fair, not accurately in the sense of fandom-wise or industry-wise, but likability among peers. Sure, we know more or less who are friends with who but IBC has further given proof on who gets along with who and who likes who enough to declare such association publicly.  Because why would you tag someone you are not friends with or does not personally like or does not want to be associated with?

So based on who tagged who, we can conclude the following:

1. Friends — bffs or clique. They hang out, share each other’s secrets and keep them, and have each other’s backs.

2. Colleagues — They get along well at work or as peers in the industry. May have worked together in films/dramas or appeared in variety shows. They may not know each other that well or hang out as friends but they respect and like each other enough to want to be publicly associated with each other.

3. Networking — I don’t know you but I would like to name you because you’re famous and has power and the capability to boost my stock further.

It is interesting though in Asian pop culture that couples (rumored or confirmed) did not tag each other, perhaps to avoid the media frenzy that would follow or further ignite the rumors.

But what’s been more amusing to read are the social media reactions the last week since this IBC fever hit the mercury. Woe on those fans whose idols have not been tagged and if they get tagged by this time, it would be pointless since the ice is already melting, pun intended. Being tagged at this point may look pathetic from a public consciousness perspective (well, it’s still for a good cause so it should not matter lol) and may also reflect the level of likability one has among peers. For those stars who have not been tagged and are still waiting anxiously (hands clasped together: please, please let me be tagged!!!), perhaps it’s time to reflect on who their friends are or improve their  likability. But then again, consider this: even Leonardo di Caprio who has not won a single Oscar–which is handed down by peers–has been tagged in the IBC. So…

I’ve picked some of those celebrities who were among the first to be tagged and accept the challenge:

Andy Lau
Tagged pianist Lang Lang, Jay Chou and HK paralympian So Wa Wai
Donated US$1 million
His was an entire production and there was even a camera attached to the bucket; the editing was sleek and the location offered good cinematography so fitting for the Cantopop king.



Jay Chou
Tagged Vincent Fang and Mayday
Donated NT$100,000
He was tagged by Andy but what’s even funny was, he hasn’t even finished speaking when his too-eager assistant poured the water on him. (I hope that girl is still in his employ lol)



Takeshi Kaneshiro
Did not tag anyone
My personal favorite, done in his usual lowkey style, no dialogue, just subtitles about ALS and asking people to donate.



Jung Yonghwa
Tagged MBLAQ’s Lee Joon, Zion T. and actress Choi Jiwoo
One of those IBC that had fancam versions (he did it outside his agency, FNC’s office).



Park Shinhye
Tagged Im Semi, BEAST’s Yong Junhyung and ROYAL TAILOR director Lee Wonsuk
Her IBC has received positive reviews because she did it on the grass and gave a serious message befitting of the cause.



Kim Soohyun
Tagged 2PM’s Taecyeon and Lee Hyunwoo
He reportedly did it in New Zealand and you can see his body shaking over the coldness. Even Do Manager is not immune to extreme temperature I guess.



Ju Jihoon
Tagged Kim Kangwoo and Kim Jaewook
Yes, he’s still very much around and despite the scandal a few years back, he’s back in the industry and he’s been tagged! He’s not down and out, okay.



Jo Insung
Tagged Lee Kwangsoo, Lim Joohwan and baseball athlete Cho Insung
He did it on his “bed”, the bathtub in his room in his drama IT’S OKAY, THAT’S LOVE with co-star Lee Kwangsoo pouring the water on him.



Jung Joonyoung
Tagged Huh Gak, Roy Kim and Jung Jaehyung
The rocker and lucky maknae of 2 DAYS 1 NIGHT gave a humorous twist to his video.



Won Bin
Tagged designer Ji Choonhee, reporter Baek Eunha and actor Song Saebyuk
His IBC video might as well be a new project from him with the reaction of the public in general to it. I guess that’s how much they miss Won Bin.



Meanwhile, I’ve only seen a few Japanese celebrities taking on the challenge and I wouldn’t even bet my yen that Arashi would be part of this fad or any other social media fad now and in the near future. But no matter, if ever they do, it won’t be a daunting task for them since they’ve had a lot of practice in their batsu games on their variety shows. Aiba and Riida would ace this having jumped into a pool with ice-cold water in front of 75,000 people (that was in Kokuritsu, right? otherwise, 55,000 people if that was Tokyo Dome) previously. In my imagined world, they may even relish the thought of tagging Uncle Johnny to take on the challenge.

Again, this post meant to look at the Ice Bucket Challenge as a pop culture phenomenon and no way does it intend to trivialize ALS. For analysis and more info on the disease, read this or this on how people live with ALS. You can also make your donations here.

As Taiwan director Doze Niu said:

“I hope this is not just a fad. And don’t forget the suffering that this world has witnessed.”

© Orange Jasmine Purple Yam (blogging since 2001). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the contents in this site without permission from the author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Orange Jasmine Purple Yam with appropriate link to the original content.


One thought on “[blog] the Ice Bucket Challenge as a pop culture phenomenon

  1. Pingback: Not Dead Yet & Other News: OCDrama Digest 4th – 25th Aug 2014 | obsessive compulsive (k)drama-watching disorder

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