Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Week 5

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett's Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity gave very interesting insights into how today's media is affecting American society and changing values. What stands out to me most in this book is the idea of the celebrity residual. Celebrity residual is a star's undeserved fame. The public cares about a star's personal life and the everyday aspects of their life. We are obsessed with what they are doing, what they are eating, what they are wearing, where they are going, rather than with their talents and abilities. It seems like popularity can be a talent all in its own. Take reality television as an example. People like the Kardashians, the Jersey Shore cast, and the Teen Mom cast exhibit no extraordinary talents. However, society still looks at them as stars, and follows their every move. These people are stars using nothing but celebrity residual. What worries me about this phenomenon is the effect on today's youth. Stars are role models for children and adolescents. When people can become stars without having made any accomplishments, what does that say to children? I think it relays the message that you don't need to contribute to society or have any accomplishments in order to be successful or important. Using the example of Teen Mom, there were high school girls across the country who became pregnant in an attempt to be more like the cast of this reality show. While it may seem silly to an adult to want to be like someone on Teen Mom or Jersey Shore, it is not silly to adolescents to look up to these stars. I believe these shows are sending the wrong messages to youth and that we as teachers need to be aware of the celebrities that our students idolize. Who these students idolize can tell us a lot about our class, their values, and aspirations.

Discussion Questions #8:
People enjoy sharing cultural experiences. It enables us to have commonalities with others, make friends, establish taste, and build social networks.Discussing celebrity is one thing that people have as a common 'cultural experience'. Celebrity permeates society and it generates billions of dollars a year. However, many people look at celebrity as frivolous and celebrity has not been examined seriously or judged to be a significant part of society. Do you agree with Currid-Halkett that celebrity should be taken seriously as a part of modern culture and be studied in depth, or do you believe it is frivolous?  

I think celebrity, as far as celebrity residual, should be frivolous. However, I know that it is a major part of American culture. No matter where you go you are bombarded by celebrity. On the internet, on the television, at line in the grocery store. I find even myself sometimes thinking when making a purchase, "Oh, that's the one with Beyonce in the commercial, it must be good." People look up to celebrities and want to be like them, it is important that we as a society understand the effect celebrity has on us and how it changes the way we interact with each other and make important decisions. I see an extension of the "keeping up with the Jones" mentality, except now the Jones's are movie stars.


  1. Danielle, I wholeheartedly agree with you that kids looking up to celebrities is actually a fairly serious problem. I don't think 100 years ago that this would have been the case, as most people only knew of local legends and heroes due to the absence of truly national newspapers, radio, television, etc. If they did know of a national hero, it would've been someone of import and character (for the most part.) Now with MTV, VH1, and whatever other networks the childrens are watching today, kids get to see their idols basically acting like idiots. The drug addiction-rehab cycle, where stars get addicted to drugs and are then celebrated for going to a cushy rehab center and getting clean, sends a particularly worrisome message to youth.

    Then again, of course, there have always been and will always be negative influences in young peoples' lives. Hopefully the impact of celebrities on the lives of young people is marginalized by the impact of real heroes (like Gandhi, or Bumblebee.)

  2. While I agree with your views that it sends the message to children you can be famous without having a talent or contributing to society, I think that blaming celebrities for them being famous is missing the point a bit. Very rarely these people made themselves famous, if knowing how to become famous was so easy a Jersey Shore cast member could do it, than I think we would have A LOT more famous people. I think the real people to blame is ourselves for making them famous. I think the only reason people get this "celebrity residual" is because we as humans grow attached to people and things we are around all the time. This is why people love their hometown even if it is a crapshoot, or are best friends with people who aren't very good people. We are just around something or someone so much we grow attached. We see these people all the time on TV, hear about them in passing, and read about them, so a sense of attachment develops whether you want it to or not. And the smart ones like you and I know that obsessing over celebrities is pointless and dumb, and the people who have little awareness of these facts continue to follow these celebrities as if they were family.

  3. Danielle, in response to your first post, It is disturbing that people are becoming famous with no distinguishable talent, accomplishments, or contributions to society at large. The last 20 years, especially the Internet boom, has witnessed a new form of celebrity. Its true that these new celebrities are bad role models for young adolescents, but I think the problem is even worse then that. As far as the reality t.v. stars are concerned, I think a lot of young people do not realize the extent of marketing, advertising, and role playing that is involved with these shows. I'm sure how realistic these shows really are, but the important thing is that teens believe they reflect reality. As far as entertainment value is concerned, I have no problem with it, I won't watch but I don't care if others do. However, it is important that young people realize that the life styles they see on t.v. is not an accurate reflection of most people's lives.

  4. Great comments. It's ironic that these shows are called "reality shows." They have really taken "celebrity" to a whole new level - a postmodern one, where there is no truth and reality is whatever you say it is.