Sunday, 14 November 2010

A-list for effort

If you switched on the news last week you'd have been forgiven for thinking that the end of the world was nigh. On Wednesday, a bunch of students threw down their rolling papers in disgust and stormed the Conservative headquarters to protest the government's decision to increase tuition fees. Fire extinguishers were thrown, placards were waved and hair went unwashed.

Those arguing in favour of tuition fees are quick to point out the abuses and indulgences of academia as reason enough for people to fund their own studies. And based on an 'exclusive' feature in today's Mail On Sunday, I have to concede that they have a point.

Plugging her new book Starstruck, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett has written about her "major research project at the University of Southern California" to "understand the mechanics behind celebrity".

Sounds promising - even more intellectually robust than a degree in Lady Gaga studies. So what alarming insights has Currid-Halkett uncovered in the process of unravelling the mystery of modern celebrity?

Erm... well, apparently famous people have their pictures taken in London, Los Angeles and New York. She knows this because she and her colleague Gilad Ravid waded through 600,000 shots on Getty Images. As Elizabeth explains: "stars need to show up in key locations". I can smell the Pulitzer from here.

But there's more. Celebs also go to places like Sundance Film Festival, even if, like Paris Hilton, they don't actually have a film in competition.

Paris gets special mention, since she represents the kind of person who is "all celebrity - their fame driven by the ink spilled about them in gossip columns". But Paris and her ilk also understand the importance of keeping the company of A-listers, which helps to keep their profile high, because "celebrity networks produce a very different outcome" than meeting a few friends for dinner.

Liz's final silver bullet is the previously undiscovered gem that "celebrities cultivate a collective obsession with their personas which requires making themselves available." Astounding stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

So, what have we learned here? Celebrities have their pictures taken, mix with other famous people and live their lives in the public eye. That was a year well-spent.

This bewilderingly pointless article ends with the following paragraph: "One thing has become abundantly clear: with the billions of pounds backing it, the millions of jobs created and society's seemingly unyielding desire for more, celebrity is a social and economic phenomenon worth taking seriously." Sadly, the same can't be said for the burgeoning phenomenon of celebrity studies. Please see me after class.

1 comment:

  1. An authoritative new voice has emerged, to be sure. I especially appreciate her insight on celebrities making appearances in London and New York. I suppose I'll stop waiting outside Walgreens on Saturday evenings. In Ft Lauderdale.