The Media, Fan & Celebrity Culture

With Adam Harper, Josie Thaddeus-John, Nicole Killian, Thomas Vorreyer

From early Hollywood stars to today’s Internet celebrities, from letters published in fan magazines to the direct interaction between celebrities and fans (whether on stage or in online platforms), the nature of celebrity culture and fandom has undergone dramatic changes. Artists with both a strong web presence and a large following have made news when voicing their opinions publicly. Lil’B, for instance, spoke to CNN about his support for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He explained that his interest was raised by fans who had previously declared their support. Visual artists like Hannah Diamond and QT play with the idea of celebrity branding in a way that seems satirical. And yet they feed into a larger system that essentially perpetuates the idolization of celebrity culture.

What causes this fascination with the idea of the ‘celebrity’ and how much power and influence do such individuals really exert? What does it mean to be a fan, what sort of activities and forms of self-interpretation does it imply? What behavior and styles are typical for a particular group of internet underground music fans? Important aspects of fandom are certainly the quest for or affirmation of one’s identity and distinction. What can we make of the intense and obsessive relationship that fans experience with individuals who they have in most cases never met. And what role might the ‘celebrity’ play in the production of the media consumers’ identities in different cultural contexts? This panel discussion explores the transformation of the phenomenon of the ‘celebrity’ and examines contemporary culture’s obsession with celebrities. In addressing these issues, we would like to raise questions regarding the ways in which celebrity culture informs different aspects of contemporary life, and speak about the extent to which it determines our understanding of beauty and gender.

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