Flip through the pages of the most widely read magazine or newspapers and there it is; stories of celebrities, they have taken over the news, magazines and television. The influence of celebrity has become a significant part of what constitutes news today, look through the internet and one would see that it is littered with all sorts of websites that adores celebrity thus promoting the celebrity industry to much greater heights.
A trip down the streets of Los Angeles and you are greeted by series of billboard strategically placed in major places in the city, that is to say that there is a whole city which is dedicated and known as the home of celebrities.
Gone are the days when you open a newspaper and see the captions of the children/relations of famous people or royal family, though still respected and talked about but at a minimal level.
In this essay I would analysing the notion that ascribed celebrity have been replaced by achieved celebrity in the West, I will explore the riddle “celebrity” as the most subtle element to grasp yet it has been embedded in our everyday life.
I would first define the term celebrity, who should be categorized as a celebrity then draw on Chris Rojek’s three classes of celebrity. Finally, I will analyze the metamorphosis of celebrity, that is the shift from ascribed celebrity been the focus of attention to achieved celebrity taking over in the West.
I will construct my argument along the line as some notable academic theorist such as Bob Franklin, Joshua Gamson, Daniel Boorstin and Ernest Cashmore.
CELEBRITY DEFINED Before I go further, it is important to have an understanding of the term celebrity; the oxford dictionary defines celebrity as the state of being famous, this gives us a faint idea of the term. The word celebrity stems from the Latin word celebrem, which has attributes with fame, also the French word celebre meaning well known in public. Drawing on Daniel Boorstin’s work, he defines a celebrity as a person who is well-known for their well-knowness.
What do you think celebrity is? It is someone sent to us as a gift, to bring us joy (1980’s Celebrity Angelyne, quoted in Gamson 1994:1). “Celebrities are ordinary people rendered extraordinary through media coverage” (Lumby, 1997, p. 82). Gathering all of the above, celebrity are famous people who are in the limelight, well known for their knowness and a gift to us. According to Marshall, celebrities (which may refer to achieved celebrity) have taken over the role which was once played by heroes and kings; they have warmed their way into the heart of the public.
He even went as far as saying that the Queen (Elizabeth) is clearly not a celebrity in modern terms, which to an extent is true as there is now a distinction between royalty and celebrity (Marshall cited by Lumby 1999, pp73). THE METAMORPHOSIS OF CELEBRITY Celebrity status comes in different forms, drawing on Rojek’s book: Celebrity (2001) he classifies celebrity into three different forms: ascribed, achieved and attributed. I would discuss the three different forms but for the purpose of this essay my focus would be on the first two forms which are mentioned. Who is an Ascribed celebrity?
this type of celebrity is ‘predetermined’ that is someone who is a celebrity not by choice but by blood lineage, though the person may choose to add or subtract from their celebrity status by virtue of their voluntary actions but the fact still remains that this person is still an ascribed celebrity, a typical example would be Paris Hilton. Who is an achieved celebrity? In the words of Rojek; “Achieved celebrity derives from the perceived accomplishments of the individual in open competition” (Rojek, 2001, p18). These people have in one way or the other stood out and as such has been recognised for their talent or accomplishments.
Some examples of this form of celebrity are, Beyonce, Sinatra, Madonna, Notorious B. I. G, P. diddy and Jay Z, these are musicians who have be noted for their accomplishments over the years. Who are attributed celebrities? Not all celebrities have rare gifts of talents with which they are recognised with; some people acquire the celebrity status from media saturation. Again in Rojek’s words; “Achieved celebrity is not exclusively a matter of special talent or skill. In some cases it is largely the result of the concentrated representation of an individual as noteworthy or exceptional by cultural intermediaries.
When this is so ,it is attributed celebrity (Rojek, 2001). In a remarkable way, Rojek thought it wise to categorise a minor group of celebrities, he carved out what he termed as celetoid from attributed celebrity. He defined this group of celebrity as media-generated, compressed, concentrated form of attributed celebrity, examples include, reality show contestants, lottery winners, mistresses these kind of celebrity have 15minutes fame. They have not achieved any spectacular feat to be respected or to earn long term celebrity status, and tabloids understand that it is how they, the tabloids, represent them that the public feel about them.