Racism Feminism and Celebrity Culture Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

That would be nice to think about, anyway, because the alternative, a future filled with vapid, self-centered, and spoiled "princesses" is difficult to comprehend or hope for.

Celebrity Culture

If there is one aspect of American culture that is difficult to comprehend, it is America's fascination with celebrity. The little girls who are growing up wanting to be princesses are seeing that lifestyle right before their eyes in the celebrities who fill the pages of magazines and the Internet - people like Paris Hilton and Ivanka Trump, who are famous simply because they are young, beautiful, and most important, wealthy. America is obsessed with Hollywood stars, too, and their lives are open books to the public who eat up paparazzi photos like so much Christmas candy. The history of celebrity culture may not be quite as lengthy as some of these other cultural phenomena, but it is also an aspect of society that is difficult to erase, because people are always fascinated with the wealthy, the famous, and the powerful. For example, George Washington was a celebrity in his own right at the time, and throughout history, there have been celebrities and those who admire them keeping them at the forefront of news and the media. For example, before film, writers and inventors, like Alexander Graham Bell and Mark Twain were celebrities, and when the film industry began, early film stars began the tradition of fascination with Hollywood celebrity. This changed when P.T. Barnum began promoting his circus acts as celebrities, as another writer notes. He says, "Americans once worshipped their heroes as a means of establishing a national character and identity, but in the mid-nineteenth century, Barnum created spectacles and celebrities out of not much more than sheer bravado" (Achterman). Thus, celebrity and what created celebrity changes as a result of media coverage and blatant promotion, and that is the type of celebrity that exists today. One writer notes, "At the same time, however, stars can function as sanctioned sites for ideological irruptions - that is, they can serve as comfortable cultural 'fictions' for social realities" (Negra 9). That helps to explain why people are fascinated with celebrities, they are a fine release from reality, and help create fantasies and imagination, something society always needs. However, this fan appreciation and fascination seems to have reached epic proportions in the last few decades.

This celebrity culture in America is helping to create a generation of obsessed fans who will do anything to emulate the stars they love, from dressing like them to purchasing their brand name products, and even wanting to look like them. Author Negra continues, "At a time when the performance of celebrity identity and the display of celebrity beauty have become increasingly ironic, this sense of irony is particularly apparent in a website devoted to celebrity plastic surgeries, the 'Plastic People' website" (Negra 166). Young women, especially, are becoming increasingly interested in their bodies, and the "perfect" body, and girls as young as 16 are commonly asking for breast enhancements, nose jobs, and other surgeries to make them more attractive and appealing to men, largely because the celebrities routinely undergo these surgeries and openly discuss them. Celebrity is changing American culture to want to "be" a celebrity too, as the popularity of such shows as "American Idol," "Top Chef," "America's Next Top Model," and a host of other reality shows clearly indicates. Part of that is the age-old idea that in America, it is possible for anyone to accomplish anything, and so, Americans are obsessed with celebrities, but they are obsessed with being celebrities too, it may be the 21st century American Dream.

Celebrity culture in the future shows no sign of disappearing, although it would be nice to think that America will finally come to its' senses and become more interested in topics that are more interesting and thought-provoking. This celebrity culture celebrates a lifestyle that most people can never achieve, and that can lead to disappointment and disillusionment in their adult lives. It can also lead to a culture that is never satisfied and always seeking something more, something they cannot attain. Celebrity culture celebrates the most shallow and unimportant aspects of a person - their looks, their clothing, their money, and their "stuff," rather than celebrating the heart and soul of a person, and all that can mean. It is a self-adsorbed and self-serving side of our culture that adds little depth or meaning to it, and hopefully, in the future it will be replaced with something more meaningful.

In conclusion, this essay shows that American culture is a unique blend of thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and peoples that truly do make it a melting pot. There are aspects of our culture that are difficult to explain, and aspects we should celebrate. There are aspects that will probably change dramatically, and some that will not, and all of them add up to make us Americans.


Achterman, Doug. "Celebrity Culture in the United States." GaleCengage.com. 2008. 13 Dec. 2008. http://www.gale.cengage.com/reference/doug/2008/04/celebrity.htm.

Massey, Scott T. "Dumbing Down' American Culture." The Washington Times 24 Sept. 2006: B02.

Negra, Diane. Off-White Hollywood: American Culture and Ethnic Female Stardom. London: Routledge, 2001.

Rhymes, Edward. "White Culture: Sexism, Racism and Violence." AfricaResourse.com. 2007. 13 Dec. 2008. http://www.africaresource.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=277:white-culture-sexism-racism-and-violence&catid=136:race&Itemid=351.

West, Diane. "Gutter Talk; American Culture Debased." The Washington Times 21 Sept. 2007: A17.

Wetzstein, Cheryl. "American Culture Leaves Men in Crisis, Author Says: Other Feminists See No Evidence of Widespread Malaise." The Washington Times 13 Oct. 1999: 2.

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