In this week’s reading, Petersen makes the argument that the “simultaneous embrace and disavowal of publicity is at the heart of stardom.” This quote is about the contradictory feelings between loving the publicity as a star yet at the same time wanting to have some privacy too. Yet according to Peterson, both aspects are necessary in order to be a star.
I think that the first part of the argument, the embrace of publicity, ties-in well to the star equation that we learned on the first day of class: a star = textual info + extra-textual info. In fact, in looking over my notes, I realized that it was Peterson who formulated this equation! A star’s image is not simply based on the roles that he or she plays, but rather is also based on what he or she is like outside of those roles in day-to-day life. This extra-textual information, however, can only come from one source: publicity! Thus, in order to be a star and maintain one’s star image, stars need at least some publicity. Going back to Petersen’s argument in the current piece, then, stars do embrace publicity since this is how they maintain their popularity.
At the same time, Peterson argues that stars also dislike publicity. The article brings up two different reasons why this happens. The first, as illustrated by the Reese Witherspon interview, is that stars miss being able to keep things private. I am sure it would be very disheartening to have everyone always knowing your business. You would have to constantly monitor the things you do since you are always in the public eye and this would become very stressful after a while. The second argument, and one that I had not previously thought about but find very compelling, is that it is taboo for stars to like publicity. As we have previously discussed in class, one of the reasons why we like stars is that they are similar to ourselves, just a little bit bigger. However, if a star admits to loving the publicity and is seen openly using the press, then they are no longer ordinary people like us. Therefore, even if they do not actually miss their privacy, stars must make it appear so, in order to maintain their star image.
Overall, it seems that stars have to walk a very fine-line. On the one hand, they must give up their privacy and put themselves out into the public eye in order to maintain their star image. Yet, they must also make an effort to try and maintain their privacy for both personal reasons (to keep their sanity) and image reasons (to maintain the idea that they are like everyone else). Who knew that being a star could be such hard work!