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Celebrity & Pandemic: Is Celebrity Culture Dying?

During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen celebrities and high profile people use social media in a way that has roused both negative and positive response. However, a quick internet search of celebrities and the pandemic leads to overwhelmingly negative titles: A headline for the NY Times says "Celebrity Culture is Burning" and BBC asks, "Is the age of celebrity over?" Think of images of celebrities on their private islands, flaunting their wealth, and hosting parties — all while preaching "we’re all in this together!"

To think more specifically, some examples that comes to mind include: the celebrity-sung "Imagine" video, or John Krasinski’s web-series "Some Good News," or even the host of sourdough videos made by celebrities on their Instagram stories.

How is celebrity changing/how has it changed during the coronavirus pandemic? Are there any examples or sources of joy and positive affect coming from celebrity culture? Or are the overwhelmingly negative headlines right to say that celebrity culture is burning?

  • Very interesting. I cannot say that I've seen any of these other articles you've mentioned, but I'd be curious to read them now, and see what arguments they make in defense of that thesis. I suspect one death knell for celebrity culture was that much maligned celebrities-singing-"Imagine" video, with its palpable chasm between its authors' expected reception and its actual audience's kneejerk cringe. However, on the other side of the coin, I would argue that Covid has presented new templates of celebrity that did not exist prior. Anthony Fauci and (our Canadian counterpart) Theresa Tam have long been well-known in medical and epidemiological circles, but the pandemic turned them into household names. On a different corner of the same side of the coin, I wonder if Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin would have ascended to celebrity status they way they did if not for the pandemic. Lastly, if celebrity culture is in fact declining, I wonder how much of that is necessarily a direct result of the pandemic -- correlation not being synonymous with causation. One significant (non-Covid) factor that I can see as being responsible for this decline is the rise of so-called "Cancel Culture" (which is a complicated subject, too big to unpack here), in which celebrities are being held accountable for their problematic actions/statements/views, and being stripped of their power as a result. In addition to dispossessing existing celebrities of their cultural capital, this trend may also prove to make acquisition fame a less desirable goal for others, who might be dissuaded by overwhelming public scrutiny, social media's acceleration of the process, and the knowledge that very minor transgressions can fuel Twitter-mobs just as much legitimate sexual assault and/or bigotry. Just some food for thought. – ProtoCanon 3 years ago
  • Interesting. If you ask me, celebrity culture can take a hike. It turned my stomach to hear them preaching about empathy and togetherness when as you said, they weren't losing anything or making sacrifices. You could also talk about how some celebrities *attempted* to spread joy but actually exploited certain groups (e.g., celebrities or news anchors using feel-good stories of people with disabilities doing everyday things as "hope in these uncertain times," so to speak). – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
  • I actually think that celebrity culture is, in many respects, the same as it ever was. Celebrities have always attempted to champion whatever causes were relevant to the day, even if they had no bearing on their actual lives. Furthermore, just as there have always been people willing to lavish attention and love on celebrities (and always will be) so too have there always been people willing to write them off as narcissistic, shallow and-out-of-touch. What's changed, I think, is that with the pandemic people have fewer things to distract them from the activities and sanctimony of the celebrities. Additionally, it does seem to me that the type of celebrities that people flock to are different. In other words, while people used to lionize movie stars and singers, now they are more likely to focus on the lives and actions of political figures instead. For instance, I notice lately that a lot of people have been treating the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, as if he were a god. On the opposite side are those who are doing the same thing to Dr. Fauci. At the same time, both of these people have as many utter detractors as fans, just as with any other celebrity. – Debs 3 years ago
  • This is an interesting topic. The pandemic has truly changed how we view celebrities because we have been able to view them on a day-to-day basis and see that they aren't so different from us after all. We have always had this idolization of celebrities without really considering their flaws and true nature. This pandemic has been interesting in being able to strip everyone down to who they really are and show that celebrities aren't exactly something to be idolized. Or even just showing how out of touch they really are with the rest of the world. While people are struggling to pay rent or find food, and they are lavishing in multimillion dollar homes, complaining about the pandemic. It has truly stripped away the glamour and revealed the wide disparity that I believe we have been willfully blind to before. – SSartor 3 years ago

The Persona in Popular Music

With many Pop musicians, what you see is what you get. Their personal lives are kept at a safe distance from their work in a very profesional, cut-and-dry fashion. And then there are the others – Prince, MF Doom, Rammstein, Die Antwoord, (to name a few off the top of my head). These artists and artist groups built what might be termed their Pop Persona; that persona is an image, and that image plays into the music itself. The artist cannot be disregarded when listening to the music, yet these artists are often able to balance such a level of involvement with the imaginary celebrity they’ve constructed around themselves with easy-to-access points of entry for newcomers who just want to enjoy the music. In a way, this also occurred with Andy Warhol, but we might say he was playing off of something that already existed- which means it was around even before his time.

This topic would be very hard to talk about, but I can’t help but feel as though it’s gone unaddressed in mass cultural discussion. I’m also unsure if this kind of topic is fitting for Artifice, but I thought I would throw it out there anyway.

  • I believe what you are situating here is a pop star which say Justin Bieber or Britney Spears whose personal is out there for all to see and too exploit. Whereas, pop stars like Prince and David Bowie were/ are relatively private individuals; however, they created an alter persona for the public. And perhaps the article can speak about these differences from a musical point of view and how it affects or doesn't affect the musician. – Venus Echos 8 years ago
  • For other possible examples, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj have done multiple personas as well. – Emily Deibler 8 years ago
  • I think I understand what you are trying to approach here, but I believe there is some unclarity in what the actual topic should be. Are you aiming to propose an exploration of music icons, versus those who are newcomers? – Arazoo Ferozan 8 years ago
  • Tangentially, you could also explore how the personas of musicians in their music are inextricably projected into their personal lives? – stefancharles 8 years ago