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Charity Ball

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A society dance or gala held to raise funds for charity. Often an important part of the social season, as wealthy folk feel better about their wasteful extravagance if some of the money is going to help impoverished or suffering people. If it's less formal, it may be combined with a Bachelor Auction, and often there will be a "theme" such as "Casino Night" (less dancing and more gambling, with all the house profits going to the charity).

The dance or gala is organized by a wealthy executive or socialite, and it is typically held at a large, upscale venue, such as a luxury hotel or convention center. While the ostensible purpose is charity, and while that may motivate many participants, there are a number of other benefits, including tax write-offs, social networking, and being seen at an elite event. The tickets may cost thousands of dollars, which ensures that everyone present is wealthy. The event may include cocktails, a formal dinner, and speeches. The men wear tuxedos and women wear elegant gowns and jewelry.

A common twist in fiction is for criminals to attempt to steal the proceeds; this was almost the entire use for charity balls in Pulp Magazines and Golden Age Comic Books. In aid of this, the Charity Ball may also be a Masquerade Ball to make it easier for the crooks to infiltrate.

In romance plotlines, it's a chance for the heroine to see some important personality traits of her prospective love interests. The Charity Ball is the natural habitat for the wealthy socialite and the Millionaire Playboy.

A Sub-Trope of Dances and Balls. Compare Fundraiser Carnival. Not a snowclone of Idiot Ball.


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  • Dave Barry mentioned these once, along the lines of "Charity Ball To Fight Gout" sounding better in headlines than "Rich People Amuse Themselves".

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Frequently, since Bruce Wayne is a wealthy playboy, and the series started at the tail end of the Great Depression. He's sometimes portrayed as almost the only one there who actually cares about the charity.
    • Red Robin: Tim Drake and Steph Brown team up to protect Dr. Leslie Thompkins at a charity ball where they rightly expect some ninjas to try and assassinate her.
    • Batgirl: Year One: Barbara Gordon is attending a charity costume party known as the "Million Dollar Ball", wearing a female version of Batman's costume, when the place is raided by Killer Moth.
  • Wonder Woman:

  • Gone with the Wind has Scarlett O'Hara scandalously go to one (despite being a recent widow) raising money for the Southern cause. There is where she reconnects with Rhett Butler.
  • The Mask with Jim Carrey had a Casino Night with proceeds earmarked for an orphans' fund (supposedly — the club is run by the mob). Dorian crashes the party to take the money for himself.

  • Mark Twain once wrote a spoof newspaper article about the proceeds of a charity ball being diverted from wounded Union soldiers to a pro-miscegenation society. It was very poorly received.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There was one of these on The Mentalist to raise funds for the CBI.
  • There was an episode of Castle where the main cast went to a charity ball in order to track down the murderer of the week.
  • Frasier features them semi-regularly, usually because Niles, Maris or both are involved.
  • Golden Girls also had a few. Viewers could count on shenanigans ensuing every time.
  • The characters on Gossip Girl frequently attend these.
  • General Hospital: The titular hospital holds an annual "Nurses' Ball" as an in-universe fundraiser for HIV and AIDS research — which is inevitably used to also showcase the cast's other talents. It was first held on the show from 1994 through 2001, but was revived in 2013 as part of a larger series of events marking the show's 50th anniversary. It also began to gain real-life sponsors in-universe, and ABC also partnered with an actual AIDS research charity.

  • Jedi in The Gungan Council that end up hosting the Yule or Masquerade ball usually turn the dance into this.

  • In Evita, Colonel Juan Peron organizes "a concert with incredible flare" to raise funds after an earthquake. His primary goal is to bolster his public image.

    Video Games 
  • Vandalizing Valhalla, a short piece of machinima made with The Movies, is about two criminals competing to rob a charity ball before the other. In the end they're both killed by its socialite organizer.
  • In Disney Magic Kingdoms, during the Turning Red Event, Mei's friends hold an impromptu informal charity dance party at Tyler's house to help raise money to clean up an oil spill.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Phantom Stranger takes Batman back in time to witness Bruce Wayne's parents attending one.
  • Futurama: "The Mutants Are Revolting" features a charity ball for a mutant scholarship program.
  • The casino variant (used to get funds for Springfield Elementary) is used on the opening scenes of The Simpsons episode "The President Wore Peals" (y'know, the one which parodies Evita). Things go belly-up when the adults discover that the "casino" does not provides cash prizes (Martin sent out ads saying this well in advance, but nobody bothered to read them) and then burst into a riot.
  • In the South Park episode "Safe Space", a group of celebrities organize a charity ball to promote awareness for online shaming. The living embodiment of Reality crashes the ball and calls out the very concept, saying that only $300 was raised while the celebrities spent half a million to treat themselves.