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Promotional Culture? – Celebs and power

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This subject was keenly debated throughout my time at university and still fascinates me now – but I must warn you now that the narrative is more scholarly than is usual here…

Discussing the role and function of the “celebrity within society and how para-social interaction, constructed through mass media, has enabled celebrity power”. Max Weber, a philosopher known for his ideologies on this matter, “highlights prominent public figures with ‘charismatic authority’, with modern society aiding celebrity symbolic power, thus empowering celebrity with political power”. The celebrity can be considered as the ‘human pseudo-event’ e.g. OJ Simpson’s imminent release from prison is a fairly tragic personal event – this is elevated to pop-culture sound-bite by media outlets and communities showing dependence on celebrities for mass validation. Graeme Turner describes the celebrity as the ‘omnipresent’ ‘familiar stranger’, who is not physically at hand yet seems so present filling a void in society, offering an alternative form of intimacy whilst Alberoni (1963) suggests that ‘observability’ and ‘power’ inversely correlate, the ability to be observed is what generates power of the celebrity birthing symbolic power and capital.

In Every society are to be found persons who, in the eyes of other members of the collectivity, are especially remarkable and who attract universal attention. This applies most often in very diverse ways and in varying degrees. In general, it is a question of persons who hold power (political, economic or religious) that is to say, of persons whose decisions have an influence on the present and future fortunes of the society which they direct (Redmond. S, Holmes. S, 2007).

Celebrity today remains a complex issue, different people talk about it differently. (Marshall P. D. 1997) James Monaco splits his definition of celebrity into three. ‘First – is the hero – a famous person who actually done something in an active sense.’ E.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The second is the ‘star’ this is a celebrity that has gained status through the development of a public persona such as ‘Bad girl RiRi’ and ‘Barbie Nikki Minaj’ rather than their actual profession.  The third is ‘quasar’ the individual that has no initial control over their celebrity status, often referred to as the ‘accidental celebrity’.

Celebrity today remains a complex issue, different people talk about it differently

The ‘quasar’, i.e. the Kardashians are prime examples with no control over their rise to ‘celebrity’, however now able to capitalise on this power. We directly and indirectly look to the mass media for the green light before we do ANYTHING. With the constant strain on media to fuel this growing fire they subsequently, scratch on the doors of ‘celebrities’ such as the Kardashians, thus empowering them, and fuel the ranks of the lower order with emergent celebrities recruiting via reality TV.

Is this a promotional culture catering to a generation that have given up their power and placed it into the hands of a celebrity “elite”?

Bolaji Sowunmi, Campaign Executive


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