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Audience Metamorphoses, Self-Promotion, and Celebrity in the Network Society

Sara Pesce, University of Bologna

In the American context of a dispersed post-Fordist promotional landscape characteristic of the entertainment industry of the last two decades or so, the construction of celebrity has undergone a process of transformation that entails two conflicting, although strictly interlaced, tendencies. On the one hand is the Hollywood star: a persisting industrial policy “calling into play the key supports of marketing, promotion and publicity to create a personal monopoly of attention and an associated stratospheric scale of compensation” (Barry King 249). On the other, is the multiplication of platforms of distribution of visibility, including: 1. the influential cross-media self-branding of hybrid personalities (i.e. Kim Kardishian - television personality, model, actress, and fashion designer); 2. the phenomenon of fashion-bloggers (partnering with brands, getting commission on the sale of items they post about, and seriously cashing on their influence) and trend-setters (i.e. Anna Wintour) who transform into Stars beautiful girls who self-promote on Facebook; 3. The spectacle of “celetoids” – short-lived celebrities – connected to reality shows and the fact that television viewers and web navigators like to “discover” their own celebrities; 4. the publicity on notorious episodes of material appropriation of celebrities’ spaces and belongings, like the occurrences depicted by Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film.

The intended paper picks the film Bling Ring (Coppola 2013) and a narrative, promotional, behavioral constellation it fits into (trials’ publicity, social networking, reality series, tabloid echoes, Hollywood fandom and stardom), as a case study of the metamorphosis of the agency, value, and meaning of celebrity interconnected to the assumed creative empowerment endowed by social media tools. The analysis of new modes of distribution of visibility, attention, and recognition will be conducted against the background of current critical discourse on public addiction to celebrity, “celebrization” of society, and on how media determine the idiom through which public life is constructed. A specific emphasis will be put on the extent to which new-media-conveyed developments in American youth’s behavior bond to fashion and notoriety (i.e. actress, musician, and model Taylor Momsen) are challenging one of the foundations of celebrity: the indeterminacy of direct personal reciprocity between idol and fan. The discussion will touch on the idea of celebrity as an individualized mode of power and vertical concentration of wealth as opposed to web participation, co-operation, sharing, free access and unrestricted appropriation.


Barry King, Articulating Digital Stardom, <<Celebrity Studies>>, vol. 2, No. 3, Nov 2011, 247-262

Pamela Gibson Church, Fashion and Celebrity Culture, Berg, London, New York, 2012

Graeme Turner, Understanding Celebrity, Sage, London, 2013

Robert van Kreiken, Celebrity Society, Routledge, London-N.Y., 2012

Ellis Cashmore, Celebrity Culture, Routledge, London-N.Y., 2006

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media. Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, New York University Press, N.Y., 2013

John F. Kennedy Institute