What is it about celebrity culture that makes us stop and listen to the radio, or watch that segment on MTV, or sit a read a juicy magazine? There is just something so fascinating about tuning in to the lives of celebrities, and getting swept up in their latest gossip and ‘ongoing personal sagas’, although we aren’t really sure what drives this urge (Sternheimer 2014, p.1).
But where do we draw the line between idolising our favourite celebrity role models, and becoming victims of consumer-controlled surveillance? This question has always contributed to the popular rise of celebrity culture.
There are several unresolved issues that develop as a result of this question, why are we inclined to follow celebrity culture? And how are we being surveilled by extension of our consumption habits?
Celebrity culture is defined by its illustration of celebrities personal lives successfully tied to consumer interests, which allows these stars to promote themselves through product and image branding.
Marshall (2010) considers how contemporary celebrity culture is being consumed today, suggesting that although existing long before the emergence of social media, celebrity culture continues to thrive through online forums.
Marshall further contends that ‘self-production of celebrity activity now serves as a rubric or template for the organisation and production of the online self’ guiding everyday citizens on how to present themselves, and taking inspiration from examples of ‘fame, glamour, scandals and gossip’ (Marshall 2010, p.37).
(Image taken by ashjamie)
Hence our tendency to emphasise meaning onto celebrity culture is driven by our need to create an image for oneself, particularly online, in the shadows of already established celebrity identities.
“This untouchable quality to celebrities, in turn, produced a sort of aspirationalism: a yearning for a lifestyle that you didn’t have, but that you could see playing out right there on the screen in front of you” (Hawking 2014).
Hinton and Hjorth (2013) argue that the shift in how audiences perform online has enabled us to become active participants rather than passive consumers of the media (p.57).
I somewhat disagree.
Although there has been a substantial rise in User Created Content (UCC) are we necessarily using this agency to contribute to the public sphere via online forums? Or are we simply consuming and replicating what is being fed to us through celebrity news and trends?
Yes, celebrities are under constant surveillance by the media. But it is the gaze ‘provided by the paparazzi’ and scattered across different mediums that makes celebrity culture a ‘kind of performance to be read further’ or consumed by the public (Marshall 2010, p.39).
And as a result ordinary citizens are being watched through their decisions to perform their favourite celebrity image online.
Hawking supports this contention arguing that…
“For every movie camera, there are hundreds more surveillance cameras. Every time you download an episode of TV, you know in the back of your mind that somewhere, someone is watching” (Hawking 2014)
To answer this question I have created a poll to ask the public whether or not they consider surveillance over celebrities’ lives to be more extensive than that of the ordinary citizen.
It is common knowledge that much of what we see of our favourite celebrities isn’t a realistic projection of their lives, yet we continue to ‘invade and consume the lives of these people in the real world’ (Hawking 2014).
Melinda Sebastian offers some great insight to this topic in her blog.
I have also sought advice from our favourite radio hosts Hamish and Andy to explore how success has affected their privacy.
It is the illusion of contemporary celebrities in that although ‘they stand out from the crowd’, at the same time they are constantly reinstating that they are “just like us”’ (Gies 2011 p.351).