Monday, November 21, 2005

what's real and going on below

I haven't written much lately. You might have noticed. Or maybe you've noticed that I have a ridiculous amount of comment spam. Guess I ought to turn on those filters.

I can't write effectively right now, so instead of doing normal stuff, I will make a list of the things I would rather do with the rest of my life than teach:
1) Write a series of mystery novels about students of English literature
2) learning to weave cloth
3) Painting houses
4) Designing Gothic jewelry
5) inventing something to make people (specifically ME) stop picking at their nails
6) Adapting Shakespeare for different audiences
7) Pro-tour of Magic: the Gathering

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

celebrity culture

The Squidge takes any number of interesting courses for her degree, and she is currently in a Gender, Representation, and the Media course that she has to talk about alternative media for, so she's asked me to write a little piece analyzing celebrity blogging. To be honest, this isn't something I've thought about a great deal, but it does tie into a number of things I have thought about frequently, so I'll try to keep this organized and pithy.
1) Why do celebrities blog? I think they blog for the reasons that most of us blog, because it's interesting, it's self-actualizing, it's fun, and it gives us written records of stuff. It's also trendy. For celebrities as well, it helps to keep them 'in touch' with their fans. I don't read a lot of celebrity blogs (though you can bet if Neil Finn was writing one I would not only be reading, but memorizing and possibly having pieces tattooed variously about my body) but part of the goal does seem to be direct communication with the people who care about you. Possibly it also implies a degree of intelligence because, well, blogging is a written medium and it can be hard to hide your stupidity when you're your own editor.
2) Why do we care that celebrities blog? We're interested in celebrity culture. It's not just "oh, she's an incredibly talented actress/ he has an amazing voice/ she's a great soccer player," it's "she's an incredibly talented actress, I want to know every detail of her life". There are a number of possible theories I have about this. The first is the scopophilia angle. I know that scopophilia is really about looking and is maybe more applicable to our relationship with celebrity pictures, but blogging is visual in that it's written, and you do have to look at it to understand it. We like knowing about celebrities because of what it does to us: it gives us someone to look up to, or it gives us someone to look down upon. Either way, we are the lookers, ergo we are powerful. Observing celebrity life and celebrity culture in this way keeps us in control: celebrities only matter as long as we say they do, as long as we keep looking at them. Blogging becomes another way to engage our interest.
3) Celebrity culture has spawned the really weird offshoot of celebrity political culture, where celebrities attempt to transgress the boundaries of the all-important scopophilial relationship by actually using their "power" for good. (Keep in mind that their power only exists because we care. If we weren't looking at them being political, we'd be watching something else.) Using their power in this way is often coded in the language of the visual--"drawing our attention to", "making people look beyond their own backyard" etc. Politically involved celebrities make us feel good about ourselves. "I was really proud of Kanye West for saying that George Bush doesn't care about black people, he really cut through the bullshit." Because he said that, I feel proud--proud that I like a celebrity who had the guts to say something like that.

Ultimately, celebrity culture becomes actualizing for us; in the mundanity of "real" life we are able to live vicariously through our matinee idols.