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Lecture Seven: Celebrity Culture

History of the celebrity, development of television, film and photography and the cultural significance of celebrity, why are they important? What does that status of the celebrity say about the culture and society

A celebrity photographer, an idea that has been around since the invention and inception of photography. Julia Margaret Cameron, creates celebrity portraits in the pictorialist tradition

Actress in the image, acting the part of the role and the image, these people were the celebrities of the time, writers, actors and artists.

Graham Clarke’s book notes the different ways in which Cameron photographs the male and the female figure, this is a treatment of the male sitters are photographed for what they are known for, not for what they look and appear like as women are photographed, pose is less staged and mythical, a portrait of the person rather than a staged a position like within photographs of women

Invention of moving images, Louis Aime Augustin Le Prince created the first moving images, in the form of images of carriages moving of the leeds bridge

The artist, 2011, a black and white silent movie, the story plays the rise and fall of the two main actors within the film, the film examines the inevitability of celebrities in and out of fame/fashion.

Josephine Baker, early celebrity of film, american of mixed heritage, became famous as an exotic dancer in France. The portrayal of the exotic was very popular at the time. She was an attractive women who made her money from her looks, but also worked for the resistance in the second world war, she used her position as a celebrity to spy for allies and gather information. She planned events so she could gather information and aids the resistance effort.

Beyonce wears an outfit that mimics the banana skirt worn by Josephine baker, Beyonce uses many references to Josephine Baker within her appearance and attire.

The Jazz Singer, is the first feature length film to include dialog, invisible editing which makes us forget about audio and image synchronization

The 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s actors become examples of how everyday people should act, behave and want to be like.

Clark Gable, known as the ‘king of hollywood’ he known as an on screen hero, but also an off screen, real hero - he fought in the army core.

Bette Davis, interesting approach to acting and role, known for her willingness to play unlikeable characters and roles, Davis seeks out roles of a less attractive, more evil character. Her attitude to fame - she married a man who had never heard of her. She started a canteen/restaurant where men who has served in he army could be waited in by celebrities. Celebrities volunteer to do this.

The opposite of Bette Davis is Marilyn Monroe, she is there to be enjoyed her physical presence and appearance. Interesting in that we have a sense of her private life coming through her life on film. Conspiracies about her death, these events freeze her in history because of the age she was when she died, Warhol refers to this in his pop art works of Monroe. Image of her face endlessly repeated, this is comment on how we can not conceive past the person being this is elevated status.

Warhol also gives Elvis Presley the same treatment, the role of Elvis as the cowboy, Warhol repeats this image, which suggests how we can not see past the role and the ideal of the celebrity. Hollywood churning out stars, and the factory of hollywood, and that it is all about money. Elvis the man of all trades, acting, singing etc.

Warhol also coins the phrase ’15 minutes of fame’ he created the factory, as a place for alternative expression, he encourages sub cultural characters to hang out, encourage the bohemian lifestyle, the irony of him calling it the factory, a comment on the creation of the star and how those of low society can be turned into celebrities, through film, being photographed and associating yourself with people, people on the edge of society being made into stars.

The Kennedy’s the original celebrity politician, good looking, beautiful wife, they also become the subject of Warhol’s works. Setting up of the drama of his destruction, he survives the Marilyn situation but ends up being shot in public, it was not filmed by camera crew it was filmed by public. The film of this is valued at $16 million.

Advent of television, Kennedy appears on television, he is broadcast on television this is how he become this popular character. Television then replaces the act of going to the cinema, takes it from the public domain into the private domain of the home.

Space for television to start to influence people’s everyday lives, the Jackson family, in 1976, they act as themselves, in scripted situations for comic values. Michael emerges a the key character.

Michael J. Symbolic of a society obsessed with looks and their value.

Madonna, celebrity and identity is played with by artists like Madonna, she changes her image for each tour and each album. Madonna recycles the looks and aesthetic of the 1940’s and 50’s of when it was important to advertise your wealth. By madonna doing this she makes herself into an icon.

She looks completely different from one essay to another, this is a post modern recycling of the past. Madonna as a post modern icon, Lady GaGa as a post post modern icon. Lady GaGa recycles her image every time she appears in public, this is an acceleration of change of image.

Mutability of image - Lady GaGa’s meat dress, a feminist statement? Celebrities as a piece of meat? Created for financial reasons. Is it a statement about meat? Our contemporary need for conveniently packaged food. Perhaps it has no meaning? There for shock value? Elevates GaGa’s appearance to the statement and level of art.

Barrack Obama, a pop president, young, good looking and musical, politicians want to reach out to the public by popular culture.

Ordinary people can use politics for there own self promotion, through mediums such as youtube.

Princess Diana, a celebrity status attached to royals, Charles and Diana as royals, figures of status for us to look towards in a nationalistic way. She is younger than him, she not in the social ranks, like Charles is, she represents an innocence, she is seen as a fitting match for him. The relationship deteriorates, she then reinvents herself, as a fashion icon and as a beauty. A slide towards her death, she continue in the position that she is in, leads to conspiracy about her death. Diana’s death create the start of this mass morning, this idea that the public own as this morning happens on mass scale. We the public want to share in this grief, the greater the status of the celebrity, the greater the scale of the morning.

David Beckham - contemporary everyman, crossing of the ordinary, the council estate boy into the a celebrity icon.

Beckham as a brand, an untouchable status.

Imitation of celebrity - Elvis impersonator, bands how imitate bands, tribute acts, a commercial value added to this. An industry involved around this market.

Alison Jackson’s book, Private. Celebrities in compromising positions, in private moments. Jackson is using the language of the paparazzi, a long lens has been used, a spied on moment. She has actually used lookalikes in her work, she provides us with voyeuristic moment, allows us to see beyond the mask.

ASOS, As seen on stars, you can wear the clothes that celebrities wear, you can become the celebrity, have a piece of them.

Twitter, since 2006, is the way we get in contact with celebrities, we learn about their home and private lives, we can subscribe to their inner most thoughts. A line can be crossed, using twitter to share private information. Twitter is a replacement for the magazine that publishes information on celebrity. Twitter is a direct connection between the public and the celebrity.

People sell artifacts of celebrity, going for lot’s of money such as Britney Spears chewing gum.

The more we look at images, the more we consume them, the less we do in our real lives, and activities and decision making. - Society of the spectacle. Society becoming more about looking rather than doing.

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