Celebrity culture

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Celebrity culture is a high-volume perpetuation of celebrities' personal lives on a global scale. It is inherently tied to consumer interests where celebrities transform their fame to become product brands.

Whereas a culture can usually be physically identified, and its group characteristics easily observed, celebrity culture exists solely as a collection of individuals' desires for increased celebrity viewing. Celebrities themselves do not form a cohesive and identifiable group with which they identify themselves. Celebrities are found across a spectrum of activities and communities including acting, politics, fashion, sports and music. The "culture" is created when it is common knowledge within a society that people are interested in celebrities and are willing to alter their own lives to take part in celebrities' lives. The "culture" is first defined by factors outside of celebrities themselves, and then augmented by celebrities' involvement within that publicly constructed culture.

Promotion from celebrities[edit]

There have been multiple phases in the popularity of celebrity culture. The most early examples would include the broadcasting of television programs where human beings could reach wider audiences and individuals could be given rise to fame. As different technologies were released, the manipulation of audiences changed. Entrepreneurial individuals began to recognize the financial value in purposefully promoting certain individuals, and thus a consumer approach to celebrities as brands emerged. A culture began to take shape as consumers accepted celebrities as a part of society. This acceptance along with shrewd marketing perpetuates celebrity culture with its constantly shifting customs and beliefs. Celebrity culture can be viewed as synonymous with celebrity industry, where celebrities are treated as products to be sold. Celebrity culture differs from consumer culture in that celebrity culture is a single aspect of consumer culture. Celebrity culture could not exist without consumer culture. Consumers' choices are thus influenced by celebrities' choices. By following celebrities, consumers are invited to take part in the collective society created by the existence of celebrity culture, unknowingly perpetuated by the consumers themselves. Participants of the celebrity culture phenomenon also include the celebrities themselves, being aware they can brand themselves and achieve financial gains through their own fame and status, apart from the foundation of their celebrity pre-branding.

"To people who have grown tired of self-government, the belief in kings and queens and fairy tales seems easier and more comfortable than the practice of politics," wrote Lewis Lapham in his book, The Wish For Kings. This notion is the basis for the naturally occurring relationship between "regular" men and women, and those on a pedestal.

The famous religious books of the world's faiths are replete with examples of individuals who are well known by the general public. Some of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt set in motion devices to ensure their own fame for centuries to come.

Celebrity culture, once restricted to royalty and biblical/mythical figures, has pervaded many sectors of society including business, publishing, and even academia (the scilebrities). With every scientific advance names have become attached to discoveries. Especially for large contributions to humanity, the contributor is usually regarded honourably. Mass media has increased the exposure and power of celebrity. A trend has developed that celebrity carries with it increasingly more social capital than in earlier times. Each nation or cultural community (linguistic, ethnic, religious) has its own independent celebrity system, but this is becoming less the case due to globalization (see J-pop).


Twitter allowed higher frequency of interaction with people, thus increasing intimacy and the perception of culture. Twitter users could now directly interact with celebrities with the expectation of a public response.


Through Instagram's unique format was another layer to celebrity culture added, allowing celebrities to further their intimacy with followers by sharing selected photos and videos with their audience. With each additional platform a celebrity uses to promote themselves, a wider view is created thus enhancing the perception of culture.


Celebrity status is widely sought after by many people. Celebrities are often displeased by their status. Paparazzi are a problem for celebrities. Another problem is celebrity marriage. There is research[clarification needed] that suggests child celebrities have poor emotional health in adulthood, and often turn to drug abuse. Celebrity status is ranked by an "A-list" or "B-list" hierarchy. Sometimes people who achieved celebrity status come to regret it, e.g. Bart Spring in 't Veld, who came to loathe the reality TV celebrity culture which Big Brother, of which he was the first winner in the world, instigated.


In the USA, celebrity culture is created and disseminated by television talk shows such as Entertainment Tonight, where actors and music stars promote their latest films and albums, and by many celebrity magazines such as People, Us, and Star.


In the celebrity culture of the 21st century, the "Tantrumical" may come to full flower in the form of 'the celebrity tantrum. Many celebrity icons, regardless of their chronological age, are renowned for appearing incredibly immature and throwing temper tantrums whenever they don't get their own way'.[1] Dan Millman 'coined the term Acquired Situational Narcissism to describe the destructive and outrageous behaviour of those who are constantly in the public eye.[2]


A common complaint of modern celebrity culture is that the public, instead of seeking virtues or talents in celebrities, seek those who are the most willing to break ethical boundaries, or those who are most aggressive in self-promotion. In other words, infamy has replaced fame. The social role of the town drunk, the court jester, or the sexually indiscreet are not new, but arguably, the glorification of these individuals is.


One possible explanation of this trend is that an artificial importance has been created in order to promote a product or a service, rather than to record a purely biographical event. As more new products are launched in a world market that is constantly expanding, the need for more celebrities has become an [industry] in itself.

Another explanation, used by Chuck Palahniuk, is that this exaggeration of modern celebrity culture is created out of a need for drama and spectacle. In the book Haunted, he describes the pattern of creating a celebrity as a god-like figure, and once this image is created, the desire to destroy it and shame the individual in the most extreme ways possible. Tabloid magazines are the prototype example of this theory.

Posthumous fame[edit]

Some creators such as poets, artists, musicians, and inventors are little-known and little-appreciated during their lives, but are feted as brilliant innovators after their deaths. In some cases, after historians uncover a creator's role in the development of some type of cultural or technical process, the contributions of these little-known individuals become more widely known. A desire to achieve this type of posthumous fame may have motivated Alan Abel, Adam Rich and Pauly Shore to stage their own deaths.

Sometimes a false death mention can cause a person to rethink their legacy. Alfred Nobel founded the Nobel Prizes after an erroneous obituary labelled him a "merchant of death" due to his invention and selling of dynamite.

People who were far more famous after their deaths than during their lifetime (and often were completely or relatively unknown) include Greek philosopher Socrates; scientist Galileo Galilei; 1800s-era poet John Keats; painter Vincent van Gogh; poet and novelist Edgar Allan Poe; singer Eva Cassidy; comedian Bill Hicks; writer Emily Dickinson; artist Edith Holden, whose 1906 diary was a best-seller when published posthumously in 1977); writer Franz Kafka; singer Jeff Buckley; diarist Anne Frank; philosopher Søren Kierkegaard; writer John Kennedy Toole (who posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 12 years after his death); author Stieg Larsson (who died with his Millennium novels unpublished); musician, artist and poet Rozz Williams; and William Webb Ellis, the alleged inventor of Rugby football.

Herostratus, a young Greek man arsoned the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) in 356 BC in order to immortalize his name. Although authorities at the time tried to expunge him from history and punished people with the death penalty for even merely mentioning his name, he succeeded in achieving lasting fame, as his name is well known to this day.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cooper Lawrence, The Cult of Celebrity (2009) p. 72
  2. ^ Simon Crompton, All about Me (London 2007) p. 176

Gamson, Joshua. Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Schickel, Richard. Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985. "Celebrity Culture." Dictionary of American History. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 5 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>. http://www.euromonitor.com/celebrity-power-and-its-influence-on-global-consumer-behaviour/report