Thursday, 30 October 2014

Since When Did Ebola Merchandise Become Cute Collectables?

by Isabelle Welch

Throughout the past few months, I am sure you have all heard an awful lot about the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The epidemic is said to have killed almost 9,000 people worldwide, but that’s not holding some people back from turning what is being described as "catastrophic" for humanity into a joke and even attempting to ‘cash in’ on it.

Recently, I have found my newsfeed subject to countless memes and tweets taunting and ridiculing those affected and demonstrating how apparently ‘unfazed’ some people are by the fast-looming epidemic. Despite the fact Ebola has killed over 4,500 people in West Africa and there is an increasing number of western medics risking their lives to help the afflicted, a vulgar number of individuals still think that there is an element of comedy to be made out of Ebola, only taking notice of it to ‘get a laugh’ on social media.

Thanks to the Internet’s wearying capability of allowing users to take any sort of tiresome ‘joke’ and circulate it for 'amusement', even to the extent of physicalizing it, Ebola memorabilia even extends to collectable T-shirts, among other things. First of all I would like to point out that a T-shirt saying: ‘I went to Nigeria and all I got was this lousy T-shirt, and Ebola’ is both gross, and also factually incorrect -- Nigeria has been successful in containing Ebola.

There is also a company, Helanjewellery, advertising $63 necklaces featuring the image of the virus as if as if there’s something cute about the squiggly shaped killer organism. The same company ‘proudly’ manufactures ‘pray to end Ebola’ candles; presumably their hope is that the cure won't undercut their profit margins. They do claim that ‘a portion of each sale goes to support the Ebola Crisis in Liberia.’ I would however, be curious to know how big that ‘portion’ is.

Another, equally ridiculous form of product placement for the Ebola-fearing customer base, is the ‘the Ebola tracking app.’ This Ebola ‘paraphernalia,’ which costs $1.85 and can only be downloaded on Apple products, is complete with ‘fun Ebola facts,’ and can notify you when you are close by to an Ebola outbreak - just in case you didn’t realize Ebola was in your hometown and the government forgot to notify you…

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