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Celebrity and Power

Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture

P. David Marshall
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Celebrity and Power
    Book Description:

    Simultaneously celebrated and denigrated, celebrities represent not only the embodiment of success, but also the ultimate construction of false value.Celebrity and Powerquestions the impulse to become embroiled with the construction and collapse of the famous, exploring the concept of thenew public intimacy: a product of social media in which celebrities from Lady Gaga to Barack Obama are expected to continuously campaign for audiences in new ways. In a new Introduction for this edition, P. David Marshall investigates the viewing public's desire to associate with celebrity and addresses the explosion of instant access to celebrity culture, bringing famous people and their admirers closer than ever before.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4401-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Celebrity in the Digital Era: A New Public Intimacy
    (pp. xi-xlvi)

    This book (apart from this new Introduction) was written more than seventeen years ago with an odd dialectic of bravado and caution. Its boldness lies in its claim to the expansiveness of celebrity culture and that something in the constitution of the hyperindividual of contemporary culture articulated formations of power. Its tentativeness is in its analysis of the contemporary, bridging the separate spheres of popular culture and political culture with clear continuities and connections. The book played on this bizarre dual dialectic of celebrity: celebrity represented the ephemera—the least-valued—and also represented the clustering of significance in the entertainment...

  5. Celebrity and Power:: Fame in Contemporary Culture

    • Preface to the Original Edition
      (pp. xlvii-lii)
    • Part I

      • 1 Tracing the Meaning of the Public Individual
        (pp. 3-26)

        Most popular studies of celebrity have focused on the elevated individual. A series of questions are asked that continue to be the source of biographical and autobiographical writing on the public personality: What makes the celebrated individual unique? What particular moments in his or her life led to fame? What traits have allowed the individual to rise to public acclaim? These are questions that are looking for the core of the individual and the roots of a causal relationship between the celebrity’s actions and the successful consequences of those actions. In contemporary biography, the psychoanalytic tales of how the star’s...

      • 2 Conceptualizing the Collective: The Mob, the Crowd, the Mass, and the Audience
        (pp. 27-50)

        Up to this point, I have attempted to study the celebrity from the top down: the personality, whether leader or star, is the focus of investigation. In this chapter I will turn the analysis around somewhat and try to understand the celebrity as a construction from the bottom up. Whereas the previous chapter’s analysis and review of the meaning of the celebrity is logically an elitist strategy, to study the celebrity in terms of the collective support of the crowd is by contrast a recognition of the importance of the popular, the common, and the base. The perception of the...

      • 3 Tools for the Analysis of the Celebrity as a Form of Cultural Power
        (pp. 51-76)

        In the preceding two chapters, I have established the historical position of the celebrity in the conceptions of the individual and the mass in modern consumer culture. I have argued that the development of the celebrity is connected to ways of “making sense” of the social world. The process of making sense through these individuals is simultaneously an activity of the members of dominant culture, who are instrumental in the procreation of the celebrity sign, and of the members of subordinate cultures, who are for the most part the audience that remakes the sign. Because of its embodiment of collective...

    • Part II

      • 4 The Cinematic Apparatus and the Construction of the Film Celebrity
        (pp. 79-118)

        The emergence of the cinema star, according to Richard DeCordova, is intimately linked with the decline of the allure of the apparatus of motion picture projection. Until about 1907, the focus of attention was on the technical feat of displaying images and stories on the screen.¹ Most of early cinema was documentary in nature, with aspects of everyday life, circus performances, and sporting events depicted on-screen.² This changed somewhat because of the constant need for new and interesting (at least previously unseen) film product. The early connection of film to the craft of illusionism and magic can be seen in...

      • 5 Television’s Construction of the Celebrity
        (pp. 119-149)

        Compared with the film industry, the institution of television has positioned its celebrities in a much different way. Whereas the film celebrity plays with aura through the construction of distance, the television celebrity is configured around conceptions of familiarity. The familial feel of television and its celebrities is partially related to the domestication of entertainment technologies from the 1920s to the 1950s. Like radio, its precursor, television brought entertainment into the home. And in terms of the common space of the family, the television occupied a privileged location in the living rooms of most homes in North America. The uses...

      • 6 The Meanings of the Popular Music Celebrity: The Construction of Distinctive Authenticity
        (pp. 150-184)

        The transformations that have taken place in popular music in the twentieth century can be attributed to a number of factors, including the use of new technologies, changes in the size of performance venues, the growth of the recording industry, and the segmentation of the mass market. Discursively, all of these factors have been modalized around concepts of authenticity. At the center of these debates concerning the authentic nature of the music is the popular music performer; how he or she expresses the emotionality of the music and his or her own inner emotions, feelings, and personality and how faithful...

      • 7 The System of Celebrity
        (pp. 185-200)

        In each of the three preceding chapters, I have outlined the institutional structures that have historically organized the development of celebrities in the film, television, and popular music industries. I have conducted a dual hermeneutic that charts the construction of celebrities in each of the entertainment industries; in the historical preambles and in the specific genealogical interpretations of individual celebrities, a hermeneutic of intention and a hermeneutic of reception have been combined. In terms of resources, this dual hermeneutic has been massaged from the various readings of stars detailed in both the popular press and industry trade journals. In congealing...

    • Part III

      • 8 The Embodiment of Affect in Political Culture
        (pp. 203-240)

        For the sake of presumed clarity of analysis, it is the usual course of research to separate cultural activities into categories that are believed to operate autonomously. Thus, it is rare to see the domains of politics and entertainment linked in any fundamental sense. What I plan to identify in this final chapter are the linkages that exist between the political and entertainment spheres. One of the critical points of convergence of politics and entertainment is their construction of public personalities. In politics, a leader must somehow embody the sentiments of the party, the people, and the state. In the...

  6. Conclusion: Forms of Power/Forms of Public Subjectivity
    (pp. 241-247)

    I have attempted in the preceding chapters to highlight connections between what are often perceived to be unrelated phenomena. The concept of the celebrity, I have maintained, is a modern idea that is very much linked to the development of mass democracies and concerted efforts to contain the power of the mass in those democracies.

    The underlying fiber that establishes a connection between popular cultural figures and the realm of politics and power is their common ground in the formation of public personalities. I have argued that the public personality or celebrity is the site of intense work on the...

  7. Coda: George, Celebrities, and the Shift in Political/Popular Culture
    (pp. 248-250)

    George, the American magazine launched in late 1995 ostensibly about “not just politics as usual” (a slogan that serves as its trademark insignia), identifies and actively celebrates the transformations in what constitutes public discourse and what conveys political import. On the inaugural issue cover, the supermodel Cindy Crawford vogues her way into a George Washington pose with stylized eighteenth-century garb combined with de rigueur exposed midriff.¹ Published by John F. Kennedy Jr., whose celebrity status no doubt helped convince financial backers of the viability of the concept,Georgelooks like a fashion magazine, with its collection of advertisers such as...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 251-282)
  9. Index
    (pp. 283-290)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)