Walking the fine line of stardom

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!

2 thoughts on “Walking the fine line of stardom

  1. I don’t think that stars “dislike” publicity. Rather I think they recognize that publicity, if managed correctly and tightly controlled, is useful for promoting their image and keeping their face in the minds of the public. This is why stars usually like to do professional interviews, go on recognized talk shows, or even do photoshoots done by credible photographers. This sort of publicity helps promote their stardom in ways that simply acting can’t. (This is why you recognize the “big ticket” names, rather than background actors). Stars don’t like publicity when it’s not authorized, because they lose control over how their image is presented to the public. Reese Witherspoon, or at least as the article suggests, seems to like well orchestrated photoshoots and interviews for vogue magazine and such, but probably wouldn’t appreciate an unflattering papprazzi pic of her scarfing down a burger in her pj’s or something of that nature.

  2. I also agree with the comment above that stars only dislike the publicity when they lose control of their own image. I find it interesting though that stardom is related to both “textual and extra-textual” information, however some stars find ways to make their stardom revolve solely around their talents. For example, Daniel Day-Lewis has maintained his image without the use of any extra publicity that wasn’t related to the promotion of his movies. He has made sure to keep his private life completely private from the media and avoided tabloids very successfully. Though he keeps his private life private, Daniel Day-Lewis has no doubt that he will still be known in society only because of his talents. Do you think that it is possible for other stars to maintain stardom based only their roles in movies?

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