1. Write an alternate thesis statement for Article 1.
2. Write an alternate thesis statement for Article 2.
Soc (2010) 47:493?497
SYMPOSIUM: CELEBRITY AROUND THE WORLD
Published online: 23 September 2010
# Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
Abstract Although the idea of a celebrity has been around
for a long time, its mutation into an important cultural force is
a relatively recent development. In recent decades the
meaning of a celebrity has altered and is now often applied
to those who are famous for being famous. The ascendancy of
the celebrity has been fuelled by society?s uneasy relationship
with the question of authority. Often celebrity provides an
alternative source of validation. The tendency to outsource
authority to the celebrity represents an attempt to bypass the
problem of legitimacy by politicians and other figures.
Keywords Celebrity . Reality television . Authority . Charisma
The ascendancy of the celebrity is one of the distinctive
features of late twentieth and early 21st century western
culture. The apotheosis of the celebrity is not confined to
the worship of movie idols, pop stars, sport heroes or even
?those easily-disposable, banal, reality television constructions that compete for our attention. The term celebrity is
not simply a noun but an adjective that signifies that
someone possesses the quality of attracting attention. So we
have celebrity chefs, celebrity authors, celebrity fiction,
celebrity diets, celebrity workouts, celebrity psychiatrists,
celebrity therapists and celebrity doctors. Success in
virtually every profession is associated with a celebrity
status. Those who command the largest fees in the legal
profession are described as celebrity lawyers. Back in 2006,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that we need
celebrity scientists to inspire young people. And even the
ivory tower of higher education has been brought into the
F. Furedi (*)
School of Social Policy and Social Research,
The University of Kent,
Canterbury CT2 7NY, UK
e-mail: [email protected]
frame. Universities are encouraged to embrace this culture
and the shameless self-promoter has been rebranded as a
celebrity academic. It is evident that celebrity status is in
some sense a marker of authority and that its influence
transcends the world of day-time cable television and at
least indirectly influences all sections of society.
Historical studies of celebrity claim that although that this
phenomenon has a long history, it has become transformed
through technological innovations such as the cinema, popular
press, and television. These technologies have turned celebrities into object of mass consumption. There is also a
qualitative distinction between the celebrity culture of the
interwar era and its contemporary manifestation. The typical
celebrity of the thirties or fifties was the movie star or the
sporting hero. Today?s celebrities, who often lack accomplishment are often the product of cable or reality television
and many disappear as fast they are constructed. The literature
on this theme distinguishes between the exceptionally talented
and ?self made? stars and the ?manufactured? and relatively
Whereas the first group gained their status through their
superior talents and abilities the second have been manufactured and made famous through media publicity. Today?s
celebrity is not simply a well-known person but a product of a
cultural industry devoted to the fabrication of interchangeable
stars. Critics of this process point to the trivialisation of public
life through the assembly line production of instant celebrities.
Others positively endorse the opportunities afforded by the
mass production of celebrity status and represent it as a
positive egalitarian development for providing access to fame
to ordinary people.
What is distinctive about today?s celebrities is that they
are promoted as both special and utterly ordinary. They are
celebrated for their unique personality and attractive
qualities while appearing to treat them as normal people
facing the humdrum problems and disappointments of
everyday life. Typically celebrities like Jennifer or Brad or
Brittany are referred to by their first names. These are
people that everyone knows or ought to know. This
affectation of familiarity conveys the implication of the
removal of social and cultural barriers between the celebrity
and the consumer of popular culture and offers the promise
of a relation of intimacy. Although they are not quite like
ordinary people, their problems and predicaments are
sufficiently familiar to everyman to allow for the forging
of an emotional bond. Contemporary celebrity culture
succeeds in transforming the powerful and the wellknown into intimate and familiar figures. Through reducing
the psychic distance between the public and the famous, the
celebrity is drawn into the routine everyday experience.
Celebrities, especially the manufactured ones serve as the
focus for gossip and exchange of information. Such gossip is
not simply part of an isolated and arbitrary exchange between
individuals but an integral constituent of a culture in which the
narratives of everyday life are frequently recycled through
conversations about celebrities. As Jane Johnson, a reporter
for the popular British celebrity publication Closer observed:
?celebrity gossip is a national obsession and a unifying
experience across all social groups?. In recent years reality
television shows like the X-Factor have emerged as both a
distinctive and prominent feature of the national conversation
in numerous western societies.
The commodification of celebrity culture both fuels
and responds to a market for new but readily recognisable and reassuringly familiar celebrities. The creation
and commodification of celebrities has itself become a
source of popular fascination. Reality television self
consciously constructs or invents celebrities in front of
an audience. Indeed the audience is expressly afforded
the opportunity to choose soon-to?be celebrities.
Through this ritualised form of participation the public
is encouraged to identify with and invest significant
emotional capital in their chosen contestants.
Programmes like Big Brother, X-factor, Pop idol, Pop
Stars, Fame Academy are in the business of actually
involving the public in the production and the discarding
of mass produced ?over-night? celebrities. The easilydisposable celebrity symbolises the imperatives of mass
consumer culture. Minor celebrities are mass produced and
then devoured with extraordinary speed.
Contributions on this subject have pointed to a variety of
themes associated with the emergence of this cultural
phenomenon. Numerous writers have pointed to the rise of
the celebrity-industrial complex, particularly the role of the
media. Cable television and 24/7 coverage is often associated
with the massification and commodification of the celebrity.
Others have claimed that this culture is the outcome of an
imperative towards a faux-egalitarianism which creates a
Soc (2010) 47:493?497
demand for shallow distinctions between people and where
attention-seeking acquires a powerful momentum. Some have
seen the ascendancy of celebrity culture as reflecting a cultural
shift from the valuation of character to that of personality. The
celebrity victim, someone who gains fame for their failures,
illness or misfortune has also fascinated numerous observers.
The victim celebrity personifies a wider sense of powerlessness
and estrangement and helps give meaning to the difficulty that
many have in coping with the routine problems of existence.
The fame that society accords to those who are prepared to
disclose their private troubles and intimate thoughts is a
development that has engaged the attention of writers on the
growth of the confessional and therapeutic imagination.
In every reality television competition the critical moment
comes when the contestant is asked questions like ?what does
this mean to you? or ?how do you feel?? At that point
celebrities?to-be are expected to share the kind of private
feelings that resonates with the aspiration of audience to gain
recognition. Their confessional affirms everyone?s craving to
be recognised and normalises the aspiration for fame and
distinction. In this way celebrities serve as moral guides for
people?s expressive behaviour. That is why probably the most
significant attribute of celebrity status is the role it plays in
constitution of contemporary authority.
The Problem of Authority
Twenty-first century society has an uneasy relationship with
the question of authority. Time and again we are confronted
with the question: ?whom can you trust?? People ask
continually: ?who is in authority??, ?who is the authority??,
?who can speak with authority?? or ?on whose authority do
you act?? Every controversy surrounding an act of misfortune?whether it is an outbreak of a flu epidemic, an
environmental problem, a natural disaster, an accident or a
financial crisis creates a demand for authoritative solutions.
Yet this aspiration for authoritative answers coincides with a
cultural sensibility that is profoundly suspicious of the
exercise of authority. In contemporary times authority has a
very bad press. Unmasking authority has become a fashionable enterprise that resonates with popular culture. Those
who hold positions of responsibility and of power?
politicians, parents, teachers, priests, doctors, nursery workers?are ?exposed? continually for abusing their authority.
That the term ?authority? is associated so readily with
the act of abuse is symptomatic of western society?s
disenchantment with the so-called authority figure. It
appears that we have become far more able to demonise
authority than to affirm it. Consequently even those who
are formally in authority hesitate about openly exercising
their influence. In numerous businesses and public
institutions this objective is accomplished through the
Soc (2010) 47:493?497
now widely practised custom of outsourcing authority to
consultants, experts and of course, celebrities.
One thing that is certain is that we cannot live without
some form of authority. Those who reject some form of
authority as illegitimate usually embrace others as acceptable. So, many critics of the teachers? authority over the
class room invite us to serve as ?mentors?, ?facilitators? or
?role models? to children. In a world where the clergy is
sometimes denounced for its authoritarian and abusive
behaviour, it is the celebrity or the victim that is often
endowed with moral authority. Some renounce all forms of
public authority and recognise only the authority of the self.
However the self, too, depends on the instructions and
advice on the authority of the therapist and the expert. So
although authority can be undermined it cannot be quite
abolished. However when authority unravels it undermines
public life and gives way to moral disorientation.
According to Max Weber one of the ways that communities
respond to the erosion of customs, traditions and formerly
authoritative institutions is through the charisma and personal
attributes of unique individuals. Weber believed that even in a
modern society charisma remained relevant as an external form
of legitimation. Although historically charisma was based on
heroism or revelation it can acquire different cultural forms.
Celebrities may not possess heroic qualities but as highly visible
role models they have become the object of imitation. Their
highly publicized personality and individual qualities work as a
form of quasi-charisma that has the quality of gaining people?s
attention. According to Lawrence M. Friedman, authority ?has
been reshaped in the image of the celebrity?. Drawing on the
cultural resources of the celebrity politicians, public figures
even religious leaders attempt to cultivate the image of the
popular, accessible public persona. Even the papacy has
internalised elements of this influence. The large crowd of
young people attracted to the funeral of Pope John Paul II in
April 2005 were fascinated by the image of this religious superstar and treated the event as not unlike a pop-festival.
Celebrities today may lack the magical qualities traditionally associated with the status of charisma. And indeed
often they appear as the very opposite of this Weberian
ideal type. However their fame marks them out as unique
and different to ordinary people ?who are not known?.
These are individuals who through some kind of magical
process have become an exalted version of ourselves. Their
authority lies not so much in their superior qualities but in
the fact that they serve as a point of reference to others. In
particular they serve as models for expressive behaviour.
Like classical charismatic figures, celebrities are individuals
who provide people with a focus for identification. But
unlike the classical charismatics the celebrity lacks the
mysterious transcendent leadership qualities of a prophet or
hero. They are what they are??role models? rather than
It is worth noting that there is a substantial body of
academic literature that regards celebrity culture as on
balance a positive development. Some hail it as an
egalitarian alternative to the classic public sphere of the
?privileged elite?. From this perspective the traditional
ideals of ?heroism, fame or genius? are associated
masculine hierarchical values. In contrast, some contributors uphold celebrity culture on the grounds that it is
inclusive and diverse, feminine, and providing an
opportunity to air everyday theme themes that were once
We are frequently informed that celebrities are inspiring
role models for millions of young people or that voting for
contestants on a Reality Television Show represents a
successful example of political mobilisation of people who
are otherwise switched off from public life. Typically
advocates of contemporary popular culture regard people?s
fascination and interest with celebrities as possessing the
potential to connect with public life. The very fact that
many celebrities are in many respects ordinary individuals,
who have been forced to confront the normal problems
faced by everyday folk is sometimes represented as an
example of democratising public discourse. Some suggest
that this is a positive development since it expands debate
to issues that concern people who are otherwise switched
off from public life. Consequently celebrities are frequently
promoted as role-models who can engage millions of
otherwise disengaged people in public life. This perspective
plays an influential role in education and campaign oriented
towards connecting with young people.
The project of mobilising the potential of celebrity
culture for enhancing the quality of public life has
proved to be a delusion. For example research in the UK
shows that celebrity followers are three times less likely
than others to be involved in community organisations
and two times less likely to participate in volunteer
work. One study concluded that those who followed
celebrity culture were ?those least likely to be politically
engaged?. The relationship between political disengagement and the rise of celebrity culture is not a causal
one?rather they both express a trend towards the
disorientation of public life.
It is important to note that a role model is not quite a
figure of authority. It is the decline of what Hannah
Arendt has characterised as pre-political authority?
parents, elders, teachers?that has led to a demand for
individuals who can serve as models for behaviour. In
this relationship, role models provide a focus for
psychological identification but in a shallow and superficial manner. Imitation is a significant dimension of
celebrity culture. People are not only encouraged to
imitate a role model?s style of appearance but also their
habits and emotional behavior.
Outsourcing Authority to the Celebrity
Given the influence of celebrity culture it is not surprising
that politicians and public figures have sought to mobilise it
to consolidate their position. Politicians self consciously
attempt to either acquire a celebrity image or to associate
themselves with individuals who possess this status.
Celebrity politics gained significant momentum during the
Clinton Presidency. Clinton successfully mobilised
Hollywood personalities to add glamour to his regime. On
the other side of the Atlantic, the election of Tony Blair as
the Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1997 was followed
by what came to be known as the ?Cool Britannia? party at
Downing Street. This social gathering of pop stars, actors,
fashion designers and personalities aimed to endow the new
Blair Regime with celebrity authority.
For their part celebrities are quite happy to use their
authority and serve as the unelected leaders of a variety
of causes. Hollywood has been in the forefront of raising
public concern about the plight of Tibet and of Darfur.
The Irish pop star Bono is the master of this form of
celebrity colonialism. In recent years he has set himself
up as the voice of Africa. At international summits
prominent public figures such as former President
George Bush and former Prime Minister Brown are
more than happy to defer to Bono?s wisdom in exchange
for a photo opportunity.
This parasitical relationship between political leaders
and celebrity culture has acquired a peculiarly tawdry
form in the UK. British politicians are even keen to be
associated with off-the- shelf created celebrities to
demonstrate that they are in touch with the mood of
the public. Take the case of, Jade Goody was transformed from a 21 year old dental nurse to a mega
celebrity after appearing on Big Brother. Although she
was just a contestant and not a winner of Big Brother2
and developed a reputation for her crude manners,
prejudice and ignorance, she was turned into a national
brand. She was promoted as bubbly and irrepressible
young woman who was prepared to do just about
anything to be famous. In the media she was described
as a Reality TV Star, which was another way of saying
that she was famous for just being watched. When she
was diagnosed with cancer her public status was further
enhanced by her celebrity illness. After her death in
March 2009, Gordon Brown, the then Prime Minister
took it upon himself to lead the tributes to her, praising
Jade Goody as a ?courageous woman?. Nor could Brown
resist the temptation of appearing in American Idol in a
recorded message. In the meantime, his wife Sarah gained
a reputation as a celebrity groupie. ?Loved Paris Hilton
who I met last week in LA for the first time?, wrote Sarah
Brown on Facebook earlier this year. ?Nothing about her
Soc (2010) 47:493?497
public image prepares you for the first meeting. She?s a
smart, caring, considerate person. Who knew?? Paris
obliged by returning the favour; ?Just had an amazing
conversation with Sarah Brown, Gordon Brown?s wife,?
she twittered live from theirintimate encounter. Paris
added ?she is such a smart, beautiful, inspirational
woman?. The public embrace of Paris Hilton by the wife
of the British Prime Minister indicates the significance
that the political elite attach to being identified with the
glamour of the celebrity.
The outsourcing of conventional authority to celebrities
represents one of the most disturbing developments in
public life. Celebrities are often recycled as moral and
political leaders who possess the authority to lecture people
about how to conduct their life. In Britain, the celebrity
chef Jamie Oliver was endowed with prophet like status
and assigned the role of saving the nation?s children from
the scourge of junk food. This celebrity was acclaimed by
both the Prime Minister and the Queen and parliamentarians frequently cited his statements to show that they too
had seen the light. Although unelected and unaccountable,
celebrities enjoy some of the deference lost by conventional
authority. Thus they are ideally placed to lead campaigns
and moral crusades. The examples of Robert Redford
campaigning against nuclear waste dumping or Charlton
Heston advocating the rights of gun ownership shows that
the influence of the celebrity transcends the ideological
division between left and right.
Today all forms of authority have been called into
question. The powerful mood of cynicism towards authority
is not simply directed at a particular group of politicians,
scientists or public figures. The sentiment signalled by this
mood of suspicion is the stigmatisation of all types of
formal authority. In such circumstances authority finds it
difficult to gain public legitimacy in a coherent and
institutionalised form. Individuals who are charged with
exercising authority are confused and defensive about their
role. Instead of acting authoritatively they often go through
the motion of playing their role. It is such circumstances
that celebrities have gained a significant degree of moral
status. These quasi-charismatic figures do not have to justify
their moral status. Celebrities like George Clooney or Bono do
not have to worry about re-election. Nor does society hold
celebrities to account. When we become disappointed in their
performance we simply look for a fresh face and a more
convincing personality. These days authority comes in tiny
bite size packages and has a very short shelf life.
Barry, E. 2008. Celebrity, cultural production and public life.
International Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, 3.
Soc (2010) 47:493?497
Couldry, N., & Markham, T. 2007. Celebrity culture and public
connection: Bridge or chasm? International Journal of Cultural
Studies, 10, 4.
Franck, E., & Nuesch, S. 2007. Avoiding ?Star Wars??celebrity
creation as media strategy. Kyklos, 60, 2.
Friedman, L. 1994. The republic of choice: Law, authority and
culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Jaffe, A. 2006. Modernism and the culture of celenbrity. New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Frank Furedi is Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent in
Canterbury, England. He is author most recently of Wasted: Why
Education is not Educating (2009).
Copyright of Society is the property of Springer Science & Business Media B.V. and its content may not be
copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written
permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
This question was answered on: Oct 15, 2019Buy this answer for only: $15
This attachment is locked
Pay using PayPal (No PayPal account Required) or your credit card . All your purchases are securely protected by .
About this QuestionSTATUS
Oct 15, 2019EXPERT
YES, THIS IS LEGAL
We have top-notch tutors who can do your essay/homework for you at a reasonable cost and then you can simply use that essay as a template to build your own arguments.
You can also use these solutions:
- As a reference for in-depth understanding of the subject.
- As a source of ideas / reasoning for your own research (if properly referenced)
- For editing and paraphrasing (check your institution's definition of plagiarism and recommended paraphrase).
NEW ASSIGNMENT HELP?
Order New Solution. Quick Turnaround
Click on the button below in order to Order for a New, Original and High-Quality Essay Solutions. New orders are original solutions and precise to your writing instruction requirements. Place a New Order using the button below.
WE GUARANTEE, THAT YOUR PAPER WILL BE WRITTEN FROM SCRATCH AND WITHIN A DEADLINE.