From the magazine racks at grocery stores to the television sets in our homes, the laptops in our laps and even the phones held in our hands, society’s growing fascination with celebrity is evident. The celebrity aspect of popular culture is one that is constantly staring us in the face all throughout our day-to-day lives, branded into our brains thanks to constant advertising and water cooler conversation. The media flocks around celebrities as if they are modern gods and have no shame in taking advantage of them when they show signs of being all too human.
“We treat celebrities as characters in an ongoing, shared soap opera of America that we all watch,” says Mark Harris, senior editor at Entertainment Weekly. “Their failures, successes, sudden deaths, twist endings, windfalls and comebacks…we get a new episode daily courtesy of the media boom.” Narrowcast media at its best broadcasts every detail of celebrity life through certain television networks like E! and magazines like the one mentioned above, Entertainment Weekly. Teams of people work in and out to guarantee exclusive, late breaking news when it comes to those currently in the spotlight even when it’s something as simple as Reese Witherspoon shopping with her kids. Paparazzi and TMZ lurk around every corner and seem to have developed the superpower of catching celebrities in their worst moments – usually on film or in pictures that flood the Internet in the time it takes to press a button.
Some see the attention as an annoyance while others choose to embrace it.
Blake Lively is an average, American actress. She has been in movies such as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, is currently seen on Gossip Girl, and in the near future is set to co-star in Green Lantern opposite Ryan Reynolds (who People magazine – another narrowcasting mogul – recently named Sexiest Man Alive). Lively isn’t exactly an Academy Award winning actress, but in an interview she does explains how she intends to concentrate on her career and stay out of the limelight. She goes on to say something that I find intriguing and rather respectable – “there are actors and there are celebrities” – implying a distinction many would not even seem to notice.
I can only imagine how easy it is for actors, especially young actors, to get their first taste of fame and true recognition and let that momentarily thrill alter their focus, becoming more about celebrity status than the art of bringing words to life. With the way their lives are subjugated so viciously by the media, Hollywood actors start to appear more like socialites than thespians in the eye of the public. This idea coincides with the earlier discussed concept of the Death of the Producer. Once something is put out for the public to see, in this case actors, they become whatever it is viewers and fans interpreted them to be – usually fitting people in neat little molds like reality is just another spectacle. In the process, said actors become products and to thrive in such a superficial business, they’re forced to sell themselves.
While some struggle with the blurred line between actor and celebrity, others choose to exploit their fifteen minutes of fame just as much as the media exploits them. Sue Collins discusses reality TV’s dispensable celebrity and one of the most famed examples of this is the cast of Jersey Shore. I know that this example is probably considered mundane and tiresome at this point, but it continues to be valid and universal with the current state of popular culture. Despite its criticism, people continue to follow the cast of the controversial show that went supernova its first season and burned its way into popular culture through slang and spray tans.
Nicole Polizzi, more commonly referred to as “Snooki” currently has more than 800,000 followers on Twitter and her YouTube channel “SnookTv” has over 50 videos and each video has tens of thousands of views. Though honestly I’ve only ever watched her videos that have been jokingly sent to me by friends and I don’t usually stick around to see the entire thing, from what I have seen all she really does is whip her hair and talk to her cats and dog.
Though it seems like mindless antics, it’s apparent that people are interested in the things Snooki does and the things she says. With the success of Jersey Shore, Snooki had celebrity thrust upon her and instead of fighting it and vowing to avoid the media attention, she grabs everything within her reach. Snooki, who admitted she has only every read two books (“Dear John” by Nicholas Sparks and “Twilight” by Stephanie Myers), she has signed a book deal to write her own and despite getting her start in “reality TV” she just filmed a cameo in a movie that features big names in show biz such as Hugh Jackman and Gerard Butler.
It’s clear that Blake Lively and Snooki are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to the type of performers they are, but they do both co-exist and tread the same water in the closely monitored fishbowl that is Hollywood. That poses the question: how is celebrity measured? Is it measured in how many movies one has been in that weren’t rotten tomatoes? How many followers one has on Twitter or fans on Facebook? How many times parodies of them circulate the Internet?
The answer remains inconclusive and debatable at best; however, if the answer to that last question alone is yes then Snooki and the rest of her Shore-mates would probably go down in history as the most famous people of all times.