Celebrity Culture   /   Spring 2005   /    Articles

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Illusions of Self-Invention

Wendy Kaminer

John Travolta dances with Princess Diana at a 1985 White House dinner for the Prince and Princess of Wales. Via Wikimedia Commons.

It is probably easier to become a celebrity in America today than to find something new—or something nice—to say about celebrity culture. We are all experts in this culture. It is our habitat, as inescapable as the weather; and like the weather, insistent and occasionally oppressive, celebrity culture demands attention but exhausts imagination. It’s like a hot August day when all people can say is “Hot enough for you,” and they say it repeatedly. Google the phrase “celebrity culture,” and you’ll find about 38,000 hits; bloggers, reporters, columnists, and academics are all pondering the phenomenon of fame and what people do to achieve it. you’ll find disquisitions on celebrity and consumerism, celebrity and victimization, celebrity and sex, celebrity and gender, celebrity and literature, celebrity and politics, celebrity and the visual arts, celebrity and exhibitionism, celebrity and ritual, celebrity and crime, celebrity and selfhood, and, of course, celebrity and moral decline. (I have yet to find an article on celebrity and moral uplift.)

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