The word ‘celebrity’ is defined in the dictionary as “A famous person…the state of famous”, so what makes this small group of the population ‘famous’ in our eyes? Is it Reality TV, the tabloids or is it their connection to the masses?
‘Celebrities’ these days are ‘created’ by reality TV shows such as Big Brother. Reality TV has became an important part of society as it is part of the ‘popular culture’ that has taken overBritain in the last few decades. Andy Warhol once said: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” This seems to be the case as Reality TV becomes more varied; celebrities are being ‘made’ by this industry left, right and centre. “The celebrity is a person who is known for his [or her] well-knownness….fabricated on purpose to satisfy our exaggerated expectations of human greatness,” said Boorstin in the book News Culture. We have a tendency to be drawn to these public figures maybe not because they are entertaining but really just because we are fascinated that their lives are on show for everyone to see. Some of them are ‘fashioned’ by Reality TV to be entertaining and yet very few Reality TV ‘stars’ remain celebrities years after there appearances on television.
Jade Goody is an example of a Reality TV star that remained popular until she died at the beginning of 2009, but was she popular for the wrong reasons? Was it because of her divorce and quirky personality than her achievements in her life? There are actors or singers who are in the public eye because of there private lives and not because of there career. Very few Reality TV ‘stars’ remain well known to the public, they are known as the ‘dispensable celebrity’ according to Collins in his journal Making the Most out of 15 Minutes. They are manufactured and then replaced by the next celebrity that comes along. Collins also said “Celebrity is a product of the nineteenth century “graphic revolution.”
The Tabloids Impact on Celebrity
‘Tabloidization’ is increasingly becoming a word associated with news coverage as stories are printed which are not seen as ‘newsworthy’ but rather ‘superficial’. There has always been a split between tabloids and broadsheets; popular culture and high culture. Tabloids such as The Sun rely on celebrity culture to sell their papers; most of its contents based around celebrities lifestyles, diets and any gossip that can be linked to being in the ‘interest’ of the public. Celebrities also rely on news to spread throughout the media to keep them in the public eye, without being the next washed up star. However Broadsheets, such as The Guardian, are seen as ‘hard’ news publications and are increasingly facing the problem of whether they should print stories about celebrities to get them more readers; after all this seems to be what sells. They have a small section of their newspaper dedicated to ‘showbiz’ and the rest is generally more ‘intellectual’ and ‘political’.
“Critics contend that processes of “tabloidization”, to the extent that they erode ‘serious’, ‘principled’ journalism criteria of newsworthiness, threaten to undermine the integrity of the ‘quality’ end of news reporting spectrum. In addition to the conflation of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ news agendas, and with it the privileging of scandal, gossip, celebrity and sports over and above politics and economics, ‘information’ is said to be merging with ‘entertainment’ into an ‘infotainment’ muddle said Allan in the Book News Culture Issues in Cultural and Media Studies 2004.
What Makes a Celebrity?
News today is more about whether it will grab the attention of readers rather than its importance. Reality TV and celebrities are increasing and the more radical they become the more newsworthy they are. Take Britney Spears as an example, she started out at a young age and the paparazzi attention got so much for her that she started lashing out at the paparazzi, which made the news straight away because she was seem as a high profiled celebrity. But what makes a ‘celebrity’? It seems to be such a growing phenomenon that any public figure could theoretically be seen as a ‘celebrity’. There has to be a clear distinction between being a ‘celebrity’ and being ‘famous’ which appears to be disappearing rapidly from tabloid news.
The public’s connection to celebrities is also a reason why they are kept in the limelight. We help them stay ‘celebrities’ because we relate to the stories they tell and the everyday things they do, they are human after all, but is it manufactured so they connect to us? Nick Couldry of the London School of Economics said “This public connection is focused principally on mediated versions of that public world”
Reality TV, the tabloids and the public are all reasons to why celebrities and public figures stay in the media. This culture is extremely popular and perhaps is going to get more extreme. Celebrities are the faces of lots of different things, from make up campaigns to magazines. It might even go a stage further in the future and have these ‘celebrities’ get involved in politics and get them to endorse political parties like in America. Or will we become tired of this celebrity culture and it will just fade away? Not as long as we keep feeding it with Reality TV ‘stars’.