Foreign Policy Blogs

The Philanthropist

Watching NBC’s premiere of The Philanthropist left me with more questions than answers.  Luckily, I’m not the only one with conflicted views on the effect the show will have on philanthropy. 

Last night, we were saturated with quite a portrayal of white man’s guilt – where the most honest moment comes when our hero, Teddy Rist, is questioned on his true intentions.  He never really tells us, but then again, neither do many philanthropists.

The hero’s British accent, his American company, and the African music accompanying the intro, commercial breaks, and credits lay it on quite thick.  He’s successful in his mission and the hour show wraps up with a warm fuzzy feeling – except for that awkward neocolonialist pang in your stomach. 

Philanthropy is hard work – and yes, it is exciting and no, it doesn’t have to be colonialist (though that could be an entirely separate blog).  The complexities of philanthropy are much more than this series acknowledges – or are at least much more mental, than physical.  But if the show at least gets folks talking – about what Philanthropy is and isn’t, then  perhaps it will have been a worthwhile show to have watched.

There are likely to be many opinion on the show.  For other’s check out these:

  • Round up of Media commentaries:  from good to worse
  • Steve Gunderson, Council on Foundations – “The Philanthropist is to charitable giving as The Pink Panther is to police work.”
  • Jeff Trexler, Uncivil Society – “It’s empire. It’s racial supremacy. And it’s something we should not indulge.”