‘In the world of celebrity, it is the body that is central to the individual’s success’ Critically explore this statement, using examples to illustrate your response. Celebrity culture in the twenty first century gives the public a level of excitement and interest that seems, for one reason or another, disproportionate. Nowadays, culture privileges the momentary, the visual and the sensational over enduring, the written, and the rational. Celebrities are described by some as extraordinary individuals, with both natural and magical qualities and charisma (Turner, 2004).
Daniel Boorstin says they are fabricated on purpose to satisfy our exaggerated expectations of human greatness (ibid. : 65) Celebrity culture is often superficial, based on looks and money, both of which are not in great supply for most of people. Celebrities dazzle the public with unattainable good looks and glamour, which turn dutifully into worship and/or envy. They’re supposed to be everything ordinary people are not: beautiful, thin and flawless. Celebrities are commodities in the sense that consumers desire to own them; their clothes, beauty projects and lifestyles.
This is often why Celebrities bring out their own clothing lines. By becoming a brand, the public feel they have a slice of their chosen celebrity’s lifestyle and buy into this ideology. This celebrity obsession is one of the reasons why gossip magazines such as Heat or Hello have become such huge publications; their pages are filled with celebrity news and gossip. The public use these magazines to watch them and comment on their lives, as a form of escapism from their own. Mass media representation is the key principle in the formation of celebrity culture.
Their presence in the public eye is comprehensively staged. “No celebrity now acquires public recognition without the assistance of cultural intermediaries. (… )This is a collective term for agents, publicists, marketing personnel, promoters, photographers, fitness trainers, wardrobe staff, cosmetics experts and personal assistants. “(Rojek, 2001) Why is appearance so important? Why do people tend to pay more attention to the weight, dress and hair style of the celebrity, during Oscar Ceremonies, than to the movies themselves, or the actor’s performance?
Why is body shape and weight becoming the key to success rather than talent alone? Why, as a nation, are we so obsessed?! Researches report that women’s magazines have ten and a half more adverts and articles promoting weight loss (by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery) than men magazines. Television shows and movies reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of woman’s worth. Canadian researcher Gregory Foults reports that over three- quarters of the female characters in TV shows are underweight, and only one in twenty are above average size [www. media-awareness. ca].
Heavier actresses tend to receive negative comments from the public. Images of female bodies are everywhere; beautiful models are used to sell anything from food to cars. Popular film and television actresses are becoming younger, taller and thinner. Women’s magazines are full of articles promoting weight loss as the key to achieving “it all” – the perfect marriage, loving children, great sex and a rewarding career. Presenting this “ideal image” that is difficult to achieve for the average woman, has seen the cosmetic and diet product industry grow in recent years into a multi-billion pound profit making machine.
Every week there is a new miracle pill or “how to book” claiming to have all the answers. It’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with size zero, as an essential criterion of beauty. According to Hollywood and the movie industry, age is a disaster that needs to be dealt with. “Being attractive and able to manufacture desire become sought-after attributes in the market. The body ceases to be merely the locus of desire; it becomes the facade through which distinction and attraction are registered. In as much as it is so, the body becomes a commodity (… , object of consumption, designed and packed to generate desire in others and achieve impact in public “(Rojek, 2001). For celebrities, the perfect body is more likely to get them the dream contract and adoration of the public. Does this therefore mean it can be treated as the path to great career, fame and success? And what if some individuals are not satisfied with their appearance? Heidi Montag is the perfect example of how far some celebrities will go in order to get the perfect Hollywood/ Barbie body. The 23 year old started out as one of the character on MTV reality show “The Hills”.
Becoming an overnight celebrity brought out her deepest insecurities and left her unhappy with her looks. Her new wealth and fame opened up a desire and need in her to become “perfect”. She decided to undergo 10 plastic surgery procedures in one day, including breast argumentation to a G cup, botox injections in the forehead and frown area, neck, waist and hip liposuction and nose job revision. Afterward, she told People Magazine: “I love my body. I still feel a little fragile, but I’ve never felt more beautiful and sexier. I didn’t know I could have this much confidence.
I see an upgraded version of me. ” Unfortunately for her, such a huge sacrifice to her body did not bring her the desired career she was craving, now more famous for her addiction to plastic surgery, than her role in a hit US TV show. On the opposite side of the scale, there is Jessica Simpson. The 30 year old singer and TV personality caused a lot of controversy when she decided to abandon her Barbie doll image and put on weight, expanding to a size 14, the average size of most magazine readers, but hugely over weight on the Hollywood circuit.
She spent a lot of time talking about her body, beauty and weight issues, even telling U. K “Closer” magazine about her, “white girl booty”. Simpson also photographed herself with no make up; by going bare she aimed to lower the expectation of what is believed to be perfection. The general reaction from the public was positive, however parts of the public left mean comments about gaining weight calling her fat, ugly and unattractive. These two examples show how critical and undecided magazines and their readers are about the perfect image.
From one point of view tabloids are littered with stories about celebrities loosing too much weight, but contradict this the second a celebrity puts on the smallest amount of weight, often magnifying photos showing excess body weight. Heat and Closer Magazine covers often show “before and after” pictures of celebrities, highlighting the weight loss or gain for all to see. Britney Spears is another star who is as famous for her weight problems, as she is for her music. Recently she recorded a song showing her point of view to the media obsession with body image.
In “Piece of me” she sings about how it feels to be constantly followed by the paparazzi, taking pictures which are later scrutinized all over the world. “Piece of Me” I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17 Don’t matter if I step on the scene Or sneak away to the Philippines They’re still gonna put pictures of my derriere in the magazine You want a piece of me? I’m Mrs. Lifestyles of the rich and famous (You want a piece of me) I’m Mrs. Oh my God that Britney’s Shameless (You want a piece of me) I’m Mrs. Extra! Extra! this just in (You want a piece of me) I’m Mrs. she’s too big now she’s too thin You want a piece of me) Miss Spears was in the middle of a divorce with aspiring rapper Kevin Federline. She was sent to the Promises rehab centre for alcohol abuse. Her life was a total mess; she was partying too much, eating fast foods and spending thousands shopping around LA. Every week tabloids were putting pictures of her on the cover, counting how much weight she put on, how many drinks she had consumed, and how many times she had the same top on. In 2008 she came back with the number 1 selling album “Circus” sporting a slick new image, and looking stunning.
She had lost weight, was back to the blonde hair colour, and looked fit and healthier than ever. The public suddenly rekindled their love for her and her music; she had become the perfect pop star again and this change played a huge role in the success of the album. Her drastic image change had completely eclipsed her very public break down, which included shaving her head in front of the paparazzi. As long as she looked amazing again, people were willing to believe her life was perfect and again desired to be her.
Nowadays celebrity image is based on not only publicity handouts, advertisement or chat show interviews, but also on what people say or write about him or her. The public image is crucial in elevation and dissemination of the public face. When Britney put on weight and stopped caring about her appearance, gossip magazines and the public were outraged. Most of the articles pointed out her bad skin condition, fat belly or bad hairstyle. Suddenly the music, film and fashion industry didn’t want to hire her or sign any contracts with her. It seemed that her body image made her less of a celebrity and was detrimental to her career.
Most celebrities have had problems with their bodies at some points in their career; from extremely skinny Lindsay Lohan, Victoria Beckham or Angelina Jolie; to the much bigger Christina Aguilera, Tyra Banks or Janet Jackson. Only once they have amazing bodies, do their careers move from strength to strength. Whether it be through exercise or plastic surgery, no less than perfect will do. Celebrity culture is an expression of social form (Rojek, 2001). Nowadays, the public are obsessed with perfection; the perfect house, the perfect holiday, the perfect job and most of all, the perfect appearance.
The use of Photoshop software and plastic surgery to achieve the ideal body, have never been more popular than they are now. In this modern world, the lives of ordinary people are so far from perfect, they seek perfection in movies, music and magazines. Consumers put celebrities on a pedestal and have become so fixated with the unattainable beauty they see on their TV screens and magazines, if celebrity does not adhere to this ideal image, the public and the media will refuse to adore and respect them.
• Orbach, S (2009) Bodies. London, Profile Books LTD • Rojek, C (2001) Celebrity. London, Reaktion Books • Turner G (2004) Understanding Celebrity. London, Sage Publication • Gledhill, C (1991) Stardom: Industry of Desire. London Routledge ? [http://www. celebrities-with-diseases. com/] Accessed: 29 November 2010 ? [http://www. cosmosmagazine. com/] Accessed: 29 November 2010 ? [http://www. glamour. com/health-fitness/2009/07/celebrity-body-image-confession] Accessed: 30 November 2010-12-09 ? [http://www. imnotobsessed. com/] Accessed: 30 November 2010