Celebrity With Explanatory Power Cultural Studies Essay

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The first aspect of this literature review relates to 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 Redmond, Rojek, Marshall, Turner amongst others. 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, the researcher will focus more specifically on gender, looking at writers who have related celebrity studies to issues of productions, performance and negotiations of femininity. I will 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.


"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, 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 celebrity representations as either meaningful or otherwise depending on how people (or fans) acknowledge or identify with it or against it.

Redmond 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). Here Redmond refers to celebrity as having different characteristics for several reasons and has different social meanings, Redmond also states that celebrity representation can be argued in by different authors as it is a discourse that is often contested but meaning is often related to the characteristics of the celebrity in relation to the fan or peoples perspectives.

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 through 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 (Spanish born Hollywood actress) or Tracey Emin (British artist), 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 lying talent of the individual. 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. The Daily Mail chooses to quote Samantha Brick relating to the subject that "there are downsides in looking pretty" (Mail online, 2012).This also created room for her to be laughed at by receiving negative comments especially from the female perspectives since the article was about women in general and how they taught of her to be delusional.

Women 24 an online Feminist news website 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 agendas. The first approach to representations of the female celebrity body, beauty and looks is therefore to understand attributed celebrity through this explanatory power. However concepts and identifications of gender are also affected through the concentrated representations in social discourses that women are open to as they become images in the media. The first aspect of this mix that this study will focus on is the function of female celebrity in relation to studies 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 celebrity representations which is 'an intensifying and proliferating topic which populates entertainment magazines in this twentieth century'. This author claims that across contemporary western culture the ascribed celebrity is forever present as a value through people's social attitudes and behavior. "A survey conducted by the journal of psychology research cyberspace revealed that between ages 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 studies 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.

Many theorists focal point regarding the media-generated (achieved/attributed) celebrity in the west relate to issues such as individualism , power and subjectivity. As we have seen Rojek (2001), makes it clear that there is complexity between the achieved celebrity that is broad, in contrast to the ascribed celebrity that is usually fleeting. (Rojek 2001).

The philosophy that being a celebrity is a legitimate choice of occupation, desirable and open to anyone and everyone is dominant. Gamson(1994) revealed a contradiction regarding the heart of this celebrity image. Describing it as "something quite achievable or normal, un-natural and exotic". (Gamson, 1994, p.1) My interest in exploring in depth the relations between studies of realism or normality and the unnatural perfect body has been triggered by the above ideology, and I will explore this below.

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' also relates to the 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 uses this to create 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). Bradley also describes how the idea that regardless of talent, social background and ability anyone can become a celebrity is a core function of both consumerism and celebrity, as Bradley phrases it, "the lure of consumerist celebrity - Live The Dream!" (Bradley, 2007, p.162). The study will investigate how this dream operates specifically in relation to the representation of femininity in contemporary celebrity magazines.


In contemporary society debates central to feminism is now common. Issues about gender and representation are often debated. Feminism perspectives vary from liberal feminism, black feminism, post modern feminism, and have travelled through first, second and third wave feminism. (Boyle 2005:29). Boyle claims that the different perspectives and eras are complex and therefore needed to be described in several waves. 1st wave was suffragettes; 2nd was 1970s social movements; 3rd wave post 1990s.

Whelehan has, also described how the second wave is the most dominant in the society today, "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) is now accepted. However, Jackie Stacey has complicated this narrative by looking 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 work will describe not only female representation in Holywood but the link between this issue and other industries (magazines) by portraying women as both spectators and consumers of commodities and cultural forms.

Using theories of celebrity is evident in Stacey's 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 a 'double image' which depicts celebrity as simultaneously untouchable or Godlike, and achievable or real. This double image becomes vital for reader identification, could-be-you ideology, and increased consumption of consumer goods. 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, the researcher suggests 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). These debates over the relation between a star and a fan, celebrity and reader have had intense consequences.

In my previous discussions, it is evident that by being potential sites of challenges or negotiation and also means of inflicting cultural meanings are major functions of celebrities.

Meanwhile, like the ideology of Stacey Jackie that a celebrity has double image, Dyer (1979) preceded the structured polyserny notion relating it to stars/celebrities. Dyer claimed that, star image across several media may have various contradicting meanings but by still being structured are not justified to mean anything (Dyer, 1979, p.3). However, Dyer's notion was criticized by Judith Mayne, who argued that "change, fluctuation, and inconsistency are fundamental constituents of a star/ celebrity image." (Mayne, 1993, p.128). Her claims were that Dyer's focus was on celebrity symbol of flexibility and openness through "constant reinvention" which seems to be fundamentally contradicting different terms; notwithstanding the idea of scholars like Marshall, Turner, Rojek who have works on production of celebrity relating to their essence in social context in representations.

The arguments to be made here relates to debates according to Marshall and Rojek. Firstly, when Rojek emphasizes the importance of such celebrity structures in an Idiom, "I treat celebrity within the public sphere as the notorious status or attribution of glamour to an individual". (Rojek, 2001, p.10) Rojek's notion here is that celebrity is characterized as the product of broader media studies as the media goes beyond disclosing celebrity lives and constructing celebrity figures and discourses relating to power and politics. Meanwhile, Marshall argues that the "power structures of the past are linked to contemporary power structures through celebrity". (Marshall, 1997, p.7) My arguments in relations to these ideologies are that celebrity studies is an aspect of receptive change because it is a fundamental situation of negotiating the dominance of specific ideologies. The rise of consumer culture is essential to the development of the dominant ideologies. Lury (1996), argues that the so called consumer society is what sociologists term 'modern' as it is seen to be interconnected (Lury 1996, 29).

Furthermore, this can be developed with the notion of the 'Dominant Paradigm' according to critiques of the Frankfurt School. Adorno & Horkeimer described the process as of consumption by consumers as being evident to the opposition of the systems power. Marcuse on the other hand criticized this notion from a one- dimensional mans vie stating that "consumers are victimized and they fall helplessly for what is offered as there is nothing left for them to classify". (Marcuse, 1964). The two ideologies describe the consumers as having no power to determine ideological force of power i.e non- dialectical consumerism.

On the contrary, Dyer disagrees with the Frankfurt School, he describes celebrity as a more complex site of potential resistance, negotiation and identification. (Dyer, 2006). This is related to gender on what society regards as the normative image of feminity in contemporary celebrity magazines and are also objectified or sexualized by men. Thus, readers have a choice of interpreting these imagery referring to broader discourses/studies, allowing celebrities to be the focus of feminists. (Dyer, 2006). However, there are new media platforms not withstanding that are used in more contemporary society today, one of which is the blog. Several sites such as Feminista which "provides reading of gender in terms of feminism by recommending women's right" (Charlotte Gage, 2012) and Women's 24 exemplify Dyers notion on the discourse of gender and celebrity. I would argue here that celebrity representations are essential in main stream representations such as Now Magazine, as we have seen in Dyer's notion that "the textual construction of celebrity operates through rhetoric's of really". (Dyer, 1987:2). When Dyer tries to say that celebrity images are produced as commodities for further consumption, the final point here is important for the next section as readers may actively read the celebrity image but the discourse of the individual vital for capitalism is valued.


According to Klapp ( 1948 ) in 'stars' by Richard Dyer (1998), "celebrities prevalent norms can come in one of three different relationships which are reinforcement, seduction and transcendence". Klapp claims "by reinforcing an individual in social science roles, he/she is encouraged to maintain the image of super self and play roles which are highly valued presumably classical functions of super heroes in the society (p.219). He further elaborates that this ideology is problematic when trying to define seduction and transcendence alternatively;

"An individual chooses for himself super heroes characters that are available and fortunately this happens to be more erosive or subversive for social order". Klapp ( 1948). This means that the extent to which the society and cultural identity does not shape or structure an individual based on these ideologies is regarded as delimited or predefined by choice. Moreover, Dyer's notion that a celebrity is either ideal, manufactured or the real individual "multi-faceted" (Dyer, 2006) relates to the above claims by Klapp. According to Marshall, "interpretation of the meaning of celebrity by audience is based on individuality and identity in the contemporary society, as comparisms between the celebrity and self are often made, and cultural norms are supported, dismantled, or altered" (Marshall, 2006, p3-4). This author's notion is that the maintenance and production of self as individuals is the rational for the proliferation of celebrity discourse (studies). This relates to Boorstin's notion which describes the celebrity as "producing and policing boundaries of self arguing that our world boundaries are marks by ourselves with walls of mirrors as our shadows are enlarged because of media machineries only continue multiplying" (Boorstin, 1961, p.84).

Rojek and Marshall's analysis of the relationships between cultural norms and celebrity representations are fundamental in examining theses issues from a broader perspective.

My argument here would be based on the growing focus on the female celebrity's body and its dominant imagery in celebrity magazines. This is emphasized by Marshall, whose analysis gives a concrete perspective on how people interpret celebrity in the politics of celebrity and create the fiction of self and how it is performed by readers of celebrity magazines. For instance, in relations to film stars, Marshall (1990), draws on the analysis by Charlotte Brunsdon's regarding Robert's most famous role as Vivian in Pretty woman by describing the transformation between her nervy awkwardness by her naturalness and her unconscious power of her beauty (1997:99).

This suggests that after this, Robert's life has been patchy based on the contrast between her successful life and her beauty. However, Mulvey's article entitled "Visual Pleasure and Narrative" marks a shift away from radical/behaviorist models of feminism. She draws on "Freudian psychoanalysis and structuralism to argue that women in Hollywood narrative films represent characters that are passive objects of male sexual desire" (Mulvey, 1975). Her theory on male gaze complicates this point when she claims that male characters are bearers of the look, i.e. they are physically desirable and sexually submissive often to female characters. For example, celebrity magazines in contemporary society like Now magazine publish news, gossip and fashion trends of celebrities. Female readers (fans) read about these celebrities and their fashion trends.

Mulvey's argument that the contexts of screening and the narrative cinema conventions uphold a sense 'Voyeuristic fantasy in the spectator not unlike the infantile variety. This means that dark auditoriums used in Hollywood cinemas present them as a provider of visual pleasure rather than intellectual stimulation or painful visual representation. This relates to Bradley's description of female celebrities as "spectacles" "objects rather than subjects of gaze in contemporary society" (Bradley, 2007, p.162). For as we have seen in Rojek's definitions of celebrity as ascribed, attributed and achieved, the presentation of an ideal celebrity may not have been thoroughly explored in his work. On the contrary, Geragthy separates Rojek's definitions in relations to film stars, representation and production of meaning to a greater extent when she claimed that "women function effectively as spectacles in the press and on TV as well as in the cinema" (Geraghty 2007, p.106).

My argument here is that these ideologies are all limited to the culture of "can do" and ready availability in relations to representation of feminity and that the perfect female body can be achieved by any one. As Negra and Suholmes argued that "the female celebrities have always been classified as either good girl or bad girl " but the cultural script of a female celebrity is now moving far apart in the celebrity landscape peopled by remote cinema goddesses and over exposed tabloid "trash". These authors claim that the celebrity in the contemporary society based on work (ment or talent) is now gradually being evacuated especially in its gendered (feminine) forms. They also describe the scenario that fame is not based on talent anymore but rather on public fears which is giving rise to illegitimate female celebrities who are famous for nothing.

Margaret Schwartz also argues that there is a link between the cultural and anatomical as female celebrities and female genitals represent perceived "lack" unearthing and unconscious connection between male pleasure and female celebrity. . Schwartz notion is that the female celebrity image is sourced in the body which is related to McRobbie's notion which is "Representational practices in femininity which would have received negative responses in the past are now seen as part of the mainstream culture ;as pornography is now seen as visually exciting, 'the new cool" (McRobbie 2004), which is exemplified when Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are celebrities through the emergence of sex tape as a new credential for female celebrity hood. This point makes a link between the study of capitalism in relating to feminity. The reasons why female celebrity perfect body images are mass-circulated as objects of gaze that makes readers spend a lot of money to be like them (perfect body).

Additionally, Bradley (2007) argues that readers are consumed by the representations in celebrity magazines. On one hand, she argues that the female headers themselves have their own ideology of the perfect body which is carefully maintained and self-policed. On the other hand, the obsessing effects on readers are also as a result of the representations of the ideal perfect body which is forced upon society by beauty and magazine industries. Ironically, women are those who police the cult of slenderness; women criticizing other women's clothes and body shapes and the sarcastic communicators in Now magazine amongst others are delighted in pictures of female stars having bad hair days, showing a glimpse of cellulite and wearing ugly clothes (Bradley, 2007, p.161). This points out the ideological functions of celebrity relating to gender.

My argument here will be evident through textual analysis of celebrity magazines in my primary research and how they present celebrity images and also through interviews that will be conducted based on the readers opinions. The dominance of self policed representation is further challenged better. Focaults paradigm of self policing suggests that the ideal self and produced self can only be isolated theoretically but is specifically based on practical experiment. He proposes that "the indefinite possibility of transforming the subject as well as transforming an individual's life is a critical philosophy" (Focault, 1997, p.179). Focault also describes people as the major constituents of their own subjectivity; however, active construction is still being controlled by cultural factors.

However, contrary to Focault's ideology, Simon O'Suullivan's writing on the production of subjectivity proposes that specific technologies and define certain orientation the new way of being in the world. (O'Sullivan, 2008, p.95). O'Sullivan described these technologies as not directly accessible but can be interpreted diversely through behavioral modes of acting in their world in general. Therefore, this work suggests that female celebrity images are normatively maintained and produced through celebrity magazines referring to the interconnected studies of power and capitalism which is not entirely a determiner of what the norms of gender are and may not explain the creative potential of resisting such categorization in the everyday productions of and care of the self.

This section of the review has explained Redmond, Rojek, Dyer, Mayne and Marshall's works on celebrity as produced commodities for further consumption and how readers challenge and dismantle the imagery. However, I have narrated this relating to Schwartz's ideology that the female celebrity is not based on talent in the contemporary society as seen in Rojek's definition. An analysis of Bradley's ideology on the circulation of feminine desire in celebrity images relating to self-policing female audience/readers and the shift from the idea of audience agency to potential practices of subjectivity. I will discuss gender and performativity in the next section in order to buttress the points made above.


Gill Ros (2007) explores gender representations in the contemporary society. Her claims were that "the study of gender is heterogeneous and the field is characterized by different methodologies, approaches and perspectives, understandings of power, conceptualizations of the relationships between representations and 'reality' and how the individuals sense of subjectivity and identity relate to understanding of media images". This suggests that living in a media, information and communication concentrated world and the ideological impact of this has to be emphasized. However, on gender performativity Butler (1990) explores the idea of gender as "a performance that is culturally and socially constituted rather than the natural phenomenon.(Butler ,1990:1999)As a result , I have decided to concentrate on the debates over celebrity studies relating to theories of 'performativity'. My key interest is to find out how celebrity discourse relating to gender roles in general including various processes such as challenges, identification as well as negotiation and their occurrences.

However, the theory of gender and performativity are linked. This is evident when Austin a philosopher of Language defined performativity as "Utterance that has no meaning as a statement" Austin (1975).In other words, it performs an action but does not state whether an existing condition is 'true' or 'false'; Austin explains this as "to say something is to do something." Austin (1975, p.147). Judith Butler, on the other hand synthesizes performativity and gender; explaining that "gender is an identity constituted in time and is not a condition possessed by an individual''. Butler (1988). Butler also argues that gender is a social role performed by an individual and performative acts obviously constitute gender. Drawing upon, philosophical understanding of performativity, Butler claims that performative acts could be used as a strategy for the cultural transformations of gender norms. As a result these gender acts are not expressed in reality; they constitute reality through their performance. This notion is related to Gill Ros's view that the media influenced what is defined as reality to the production of meaning of gender (masculine and feminine). Gill Ros (2007). Ros, suggests here that the media constructs meaning as to what the readers or audience refer to gender as, it is however almost impossible to redefine this situation.

Furthermore, Sedgwick and Parker (1995,P.2) suggested that " the use of some complex citation process have increased the appreciation of the way identities are constructed through 'performativity'. (Sedgwick and Parker 1995,p.2) These authors claim that Gender identities are played out through the act of quoting and repetitions. For instance, Femininity is not a Pre-given category which can be accepted or challenged but it exists through the act of shopping for trend and wanting to be like celebrities who become vital point of networks where performative identities are constructed. Although, the wake of Judith Butler's perspectives on performativity gender and feminism as she described "how the subject is formed and constituted by language and at the same time is threatened through the acts of speaking performed by the body." (Butler, 1997,P.3-4,9),through this I want to test the importance of performance to celebrity discourses and whether it can add anything to these discourses. This is emphasized in the notion of perfomative process according to Litosseliti and Sunderland; "individuals construct and project desirable versions of their identities in a series of performances especially for a specific audience."(Litosseliti and Sunderland 2002, p. 26).This is exemplified in the act of reading magazines and the production of the magazine itself.

Therefore, what I want to identify overall is how magazines establish gender performatively and to consider if the act of readership can become a 'threat' to normative capitalist desire. However, this will be done through textual analysis and interview evident in the next chapters. Following, Yates argument this must include not only analysis of the texts but also a focus on how readers 'use' and 'transform' magazine representations in their everyday lives.

(Yates, 2003, p.7).