Old Parameters/New Tricks: The Place of Celebrity Journalism in Persona Construction (and What We Might Do About It)
Celebrity journalism is a founding discourse for the construction of persona. As the first mass-circulated media, journalism made celebrity a “very public form of discourse about the dimensions of what is public and what is private, and ultimately what is intimate” (Marshall 2014, p. xii). It created parameters for the construction and visibility of different facets of self-identity in public spheres (Connell 1992; Hartley 1996), which often perpetuate inequalities of social structures through offering narrow versions of self, for example against the priorities of capital (Littler 2004; Couldry 2000, 2002). This created an incessant focus on self-fulfilment through consumerism and display of consumption as if this was an accurate public reflection of who we are (Marshall 1997, 2010; deCordova 1990). As journalism naturalised and rationalised celebrity, together they created tools through which public personas became powerful cultural signifiers and props of the socio-economic and political systems in which we live. Celebrity journalism is a principal and founding characteristic of these systems, our collective understandings of self-identity within them, how we perform this to others, and the mediation of these things. As a genre, celebrity journalism ties together the contradictions of public and private dichotomies of capitalist democracies and humanises our place in it all. Journalism and celebrity helped develop the fabric of persona, establishing threads of politics and commerce, ordinary people made extraordinary through media rituals, interwoven public and private spheres, the constructions of reality and the celebration and contestation of new ideologies.
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