Do you agree?
It has been just over a year since the nasty breakup between Scarlett Johansson and OxFam over her representation of SodaStream (a company based in Israel) in a Super Bowl advertisement. Much digital ink has been spilled over the “Scarlett Situation” but no one has looked at the various groups involved to determine what were the lasting effects, if any, on them. Who were they? What were their goals? Were they achieved? And where are they today?
Let’s take a look.
For Scarlett, 2014 was a transformative year. After being eviscerated by Israel haters during January and February, she got married, got pregnant and started a family. Despite threats of boycotts – and worse – her acting career reached new heights, both at the box office as well as with critics.
Johansson headlined a wide array of films, from her role as an action hero in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Lucy to critical favorites like Under The Skin. All told, Scarlett Johansson had major roles in four films, which brought in an astonishing 1.18 billion dollars (that’s BILLION with a B). She continues to be among the most sought-after actors for new projects and is a bona fide international superstar.
While she is no longer associated with OxFam, the loss appears to be more on their end than hers. 2014 was never going to be a big year of advocacy for Scarlett, with her wedding and birth of her first child, but she still found time to save the planet by participating in the “Secret Continent” movement to end plastic waste being dumped into our oceans.
Our Verdict: After enjoying her most successful year ever, professionally and personally, Scarlett Johansson’s refusal to give in to Israel hating bullies has either had no effect on her career or has been a net positive.
For SodaStream 2014 was essentially a catastrophe from beginning to end. While initial reactions to the brutal anti-Israel boycott campaign that targeted their products led to an even larger “Buycott” campaign in support of Scarlett Johansson, SodaStream eventually was subjected to an even more powerful force than anti-Semitism: The anti-soda movement.
For years, soda consumption across the world has been declining. SodaStream, with its message of environmentalism, waste reduction and lower calorie counts than Pepsi and Coca Cola was managed surprising immunity to these trends throughout 2013, reaching a nearly all time stock high of $72.82 on June 14th, 2013. Today they are trading below $20 per share and have seen a reduced retail presence. After attempting to go head-to-head with the big soft drink companies in 2014, SodaStream has adopted a more modest strategy of targeting seltzer drinkers.
While Israel haters attempted to take credit for generating the negative publicity (ultimately the company closed the factory that was at the center of the “Scarlett Situation”) that led to a dramatic reduction in demand, the reality is that Americans are just not drinking as much soda as they used to. The 2014 disaster for Sodastream was inevitable.
Our Verdict: SodaStream certainly did not gain much as a result of hiring Scarlett Johansson. However, their 2014 was doomed by global factors, not due to any boycott or public smearing campaign.
It’s hard to tell just how much damage was done to OxFam’s public image after their divorce from Scarlett Johansson. Much of the coverage at the time favored Johansson, with headlines wondering if celebrities would want to deal with the extra baggage of representing controversial charitable organizations at all. OxFam also suffered other negative press in 2014, as the “Scarlett Situation” raised questions about their questionable dealings with terror organizations as well as an investigation into whether they could be considered a true charitable organization in Great Britain due to taking frequent political stances.
Our Verdict: Ultimately Non-Governmental Organizations like OxFam live and die by donations, so until they release their 2014 fundraising statistics, the jury is still out. However, 2014 was not a good year for OxFam’s image as the “Scarlett Situation” led to increased scrutiny and negative press for the venerable organization.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement
The short answer is that the anti-Israel, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Scarlett Johansson was an abject failure. Their ultimate goal was to pressure Johansson into stepping down as a spokeswoman for SodaStream, which obviously did not happen. They also exposed a lot of ugliness in their organization, attacking Scarlett Johansson personally, comparing her to Hitler and creating ugly images of the actress. Their efforts also spawned dozens of social media pages in support of Scarlett Johansson, Israel and other celebrities who refused to give in to their bullying tactics. These pages received more publicity and fans in just a few weeks than the BDS movement received in nearly four years.
The more complicated answer is that whether as a result of their efforts or not, the factory that was at the heart of the controversy did end up getting closed down. SodaStream claimed it had nothing to do with the negative attention the BDS movement created but this could just be corporate double-speak.
Still, the goal of the BDS movement is purportedly to improve the lives of Palestinians. One must wonder how the lives of the 900 Palestinians that worked in the now-shuttered SodaStream factory have improved now that they are jobless.
Our Verdict: Even when the BDS movement sees its dreams come to fruition they still lose. When you reach a point where winning hurts your cause more than it helps you, it’s time to reassess your reason for existence.
The “Scarlett Situation” was not the only attempt to publicly pressure celebrities and businesses in 2014. It was however the highest profile incident of the year. The fact that at best it had no effect on Scarlett Johansson’s (its chief target) career and at worst the boycott completely backfired, earning her the highest grossing year of her life, should serve as proof positive that boycott campaigns are no substitute for civil discourse.
The full long term effects of the “Scarlett Situation” for all the players involved are not yet known. However, what is indisputable is that 2014 was a major failure for boycott movements and bullying in general.