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Feminism In Celebrity Culture Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2196 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The focus of the first part of this literature review will be on how the area of celebrity culture and the notion of celebrity have been defined generally. This will include looking at the work of writers such as Rojek, Marshall and Turner. Within this work, I will look specifically at how celebrity has become a key site for productions and negotiations of individual identity in capitalism, and how much agency an audience or reader has in relation to this. Moving on from this, I will focus more specifically on gender, looking at writers who have related celebrity discourse to issues of productions, performances and negotiations of femininity. I want to combine this by proposing that certain distinctions such as Rojek’s between attributed and achieved celebrity can be understood in relation to gender. After this, I will move on to a review of writing on performativity, including the work of Butler and Foucault. Here, I want to consider how this could be relevant to the broader discourse of celebrity, gender and identification.

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“Much of what makes a star or celebrity interesting is how aspects of living in contemporary society is articulated by them .Amazingly, a star image is multi-faceted in terms of what they consists of the real person who is the “His or Her image” comprising of obviously stage managed appearances, and screen roles, and also images of the real person which is the site of the manufacture of that image”……(Dyer, 1987:8)….This means that stars are representations ‘made up’ in media culture because of what they consist of and how they relate to issues either complex, conflicts or contradictions that emerge in the social world.

Hall (1997), further described the star and celebrity as “complex sign systems that involve generating meaning, ‘cultural circuit’ or dynamic exchange of production; identification, ideological and consumption elements”. (Hall, 1997) by this Hall, analyzes the celebrity representations as either meaningful or otherwise depending on how people (or fans) acknowledge or identify with it or against it.

Redmond also suggests that a “celebrity or star has an intimate or one-to-one relationship configured to articulate what it means to be and individual to another individual or fan by being personal in a way and also having political relationship with the social world as cultural products: as they are the component out of which culture created.” (Redmond, 2006 : 36-42)

According to Chris Rojek, “Ascribed, achieved and attributed are three forms in which celebrity status is derived.” (Rojek, 2001, p.17). He defines the ascribed celebrity as someone who is born a celebrity without having to actually do anything. For example members The British Royal family are celebrities because of the monarchial form of leadership in Great Britain; they derive celebrity status for the role they play in the country .This contrasts with the second category – Achieved celebrity: “Achieved celebrity is recognized in the public realm as individuals who possess rare talents and skills and also comes from the perceived accomplishments of the individual in open competition” …. (Rojek, 2001, p.18).

Some examples here include Wayne Rooney England footballer, Lewis Hamilton British Formula one Racing Driver, Stephen Spielberg American Film Producer, Penelope Cruz or Tracey Emin, who through being outstanding in their respective fields are all seen to have achieved celebrity status. However, Rojek, complicates this category by suggesting that:

“Special talent or skills is not exclusively the determinant of Achieved Celebrity, Rather, it is the result of the concentrated representation of an individual as exceptional or noteworthy by cultural intermediaries in some cases.At this point it is seen as attributed celebrity”.(Rojek, 2001, p.18). For as we have seen in Rojek’s definition, Attributed celebrity is a product of media representation rather than talents of the individual (or related to) which is not necessarily the situation. Rojek goes on to introduce a further term – ‘celetoid’, to refer to “a media-generated, compressed, concentrated form of attributed celebrity” (Rojek, 2001, p.18). Which includes celebrities who appear momentarily and then vanish from the public eye, “lottery winners, one-hit wonders, stalkers” (Rojek, 2001, p.18). A recent example could be “why women hate me for being beautiful”, the article written by daily mail columnist Samantha Brick who momentarily leapt to the front of the newspapers as a rich visually striking personification relating to discourses of Beauty, Looks, Fashion, Lifestyle Femininity, depending on which representations you focus on. Daily mail chooses to quote Samantha Brick relating to the subject that “there are downsides in looking pretty.” (Mail online, 2012)

Women 24 an online Feminist news website on the other hand focuses on “the power of the internet which made Samantha Brick a celebrity overnight” (Lili Radloff, 2012)

Samantha will just as quickly vanish from the public eye as the media seek new scoops, sensations and exclusive news stories. As Turner has pointed out, “celebrity has considerable explanatory power in a time of great complexity and contradiction” (Turner et al., 2000, p.166), and it is the attributed nature of Samantha’s celetoid fame that allows her image to be mobilized in relation to these broader social discourses.

The examples above shows how the media proffers a way into thinking about femininity and celebrity and how a celebrity becomes a means for the media to utilize certain images in order to achieve their own agenda’s. The first approach to representations of the female celebrity body, beauty and looks is as attributed celebrity with explanatory power. Concepts and identifications of gender are effected through the concentrated representations in social discourses that women are open to as they become images in the media. The first utilization this study will focus on is the function of female celebrity in relation to discourses of the media, capitalism and social mobility.


According to Marshall (2006,p.4): ” The major and essential component of the newspapers, newsmagazines, websites and blogs ,TV and Radio Channels are the celebrity representations which is an intensifying and proliferating discourse which populates entertainment magazines in this twentieth century. This author claims that across contemporary western culture the Ascribed celebrity discourse is forever present through the people in the society’s attitudes and behavior. “A survey conducted by the journal of psychology research cyberspace revealed that between age 9 – 11’s primary value is currently “fame”. (TCB.cnn.com,2011) . The disconnection from the idea of achievement ,to the ready -availability i.e opportunity to be a celebrity describes the discourse of can-do-ideology, which suggests that regardless of the barriers such as social background or lack of talent ,you can become and do whatever you want.

However, many theorists focal point regarding the media-generated (achieved/attributed) celebrity in the west relating to issues such as individualism ,power and subjectivity. Amongst which Rojek (2001), makes it clear that there is complexity between the achieved celebrity that is broad inn contrast to the ascribed celebrity. A contemporary celebrity appears to be all encompassing and its subdivisions include the constructed media celebrity ad also the celebrity who achieved fame purely by being good at something (Rojek 2001).

For example, Elizabeth Taylor British actress was an actress from her childhood days till she died. The philosophy that being a celebrity is a legitimate choice of occupation desirable and open to anyone and everyone. Gamson(1994) revealed a contradiction regarding the heart of celebrity image. Describing it as “something quite achievable or normal, un-natural and exotic”. (Gamson, 1994, p.1)

Exploring at depth the relations between discourses of realism or normality and the unnatural perfect body next has been trigger by the above ideology.

According to Marshall (2006) the contemporary celebrity ideology’s fundamental component are the sense of ‘realism’ and ‘authenticity’ He argues that the media provide an intoxicating image for an audience through “reality-effect” which is “alluring, (Marshall, 2006, p.3).

The celebrity industry’s policed form of reality combined with achieved/attributed celebrities’ (self made fame) which creates the It could be you effect all relating to managing and production of consumer desire.

Rojek argued that, “The development of the contemporary society has allowed celebrities to fill the decaying popular idea of the death of God and the divine rights of kings in absence” (Rojek,2001,p.13). Celebrity culture is a fundamental aspect of validating beliefs of capitalism, i.e by just buying into the right image you can become a celebrity since celebrities are real, claiming that ” The commodity consumption process is humanized by celebrities” (Rojek,2001,p.13). For example, instead of the monarchial lineage recommended by definitions of ascribed celebrity, it also appears to be the case that achieved / attributed celebrities can do this in a more realistic way or a lot better, than ascribed celebrities I will further discuss research if this dream operates specifically relates to feminine desire.

However, Bradley also describes the idea that regardless of talent, social background and ability anyone can become a celebrity is a realistic function of celebrity, as Bradley phrases it, “the lure of consumerist celebrity – Live The Dream!” (Bradley, 2007, p.162).


In contemporary society debates central to feminism is now common as issues about gender and representation are often debated. Feminism perspectives vary from liberal feminism, black feminism, post modern feminism, described as either First ,second or Third wave feminism. (Boyle 2005:29). Boyle claims that the different perspectives are complex and therefore needed to be described in several waves.

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Whelehan, also described the second wave as the most dominant in the society today, “The second-wave feminism is more about the power of representation: and the need to challenge dominant ideological definitions of femininity is now recognized by women” (Whelehan,1995: 5). For example the dominant paradigm between 1945 and 60’s that the “surburban housewife is the ideal woman to build the American woman’s life upon, rather than mythological ‘Happy Housewife” described by Friedan (Friedan 1992:30). However, Jackie Stacey who has looked into the dilemma of female desire in relation to star image by focusing on the Hollywood films female spectators and their consumption practices.

Stacey’s (1994) work is a different history and way or theoretical analytical requirements through cinematic method of observation from magazine readership analysis , transferring theories of celebrity is evident in her work on gendered consumption arguing that a fundamental element of a star/celebrity image involves a combination of realism and exoticism (Stacey 1994). In 1950’s Stacey wrote about female celebrity readership and representation today as well as consumption of Hollywood films. The celebrity has double image which is essential for reader identification relating to the could-be-you ideology and increasing consumer goods consumption.

Indeed, in an analysis of celebrity consumption modes in contemporary world Turner refers to Stacey suggesting that, “Recognizing Stacey’s argument is not difficult in the present trend in women consumer magazines by providing information for readers to get cheaper substitutes or specific celebrity clothes worn in celebrity pictures. (Turner, 2004, p.122). The construction of double image will be examined more in my primary research. However, I suggest that in order to ensure proper functioning of the celebrity industry escape and identification must work together consecutively.

Redmond and Holmes also focus on the relation between the star and the fan: “Stars and celebrities are consumed and appropriated by fans in ways which have a profound effect on their identity, self-image, and sense of belonging” (Redmond and Holmes, 2007, p.4).


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