Get a famous body: star styles and celebrity gossip in Heat magazine

Feasey, R (2006) 'Get a famous body: star styles and celebrity gossip in Heat magazine.' In: Holmes, S and Redmond, S, eds. Framing celebrity: new directions in celebrity culture. Routledge, London, pp. 177-194. ISBN 9780415377096

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Extant literature in the field of star studies has routinely focused on the contrast that is seen to exist between the work of the actor on screen and the off-screen lifestyle of the performer. According to Richard Dyer, the disparity exists between the glamorous film world and the surprisingly ordinary domestic life of the Hollywood star (Dyer, 2004: 35). Although this dual nature of film stardom remains relevant today, it is often suggested that interest in - and information about - any given star focuses on what happens outside the sphere of their work, rather than on the skill or craft of performance. For example, while Richard deCordova states that the star system only developed when ‘picture personalities’ outgrew the textuality of their pictures (deCordova, 1990: 98), Christine Gledhill suggests that actors only become stars when their off-screen lifestyle overshadows their acting ability (Gledhill, 1991: xiv). Although this duality of image is clearly evident in the sphere of film stardom, it can also be seen to exist in relation to other sports and entertainment industries. In this way, both contemporary film stars and other celebrity figures are ‘highly visible through the media; and their private lives attract greater public interest than their professional lives’ (Turner, 2004: 3). Although public figures ranging from Brad Pitt to David Beckham can be understood as contemporary figures whose public life seems to take on more importance than their professional careers, it is worth noting that it is women rather than men who ‘are particularly likely to be seen as celebrities whose working life is of less interest and worth than their personal life’ (Geraghty, 2000: 187). However, while existing work suggests that the media routinely ‘write vacuous nonsense about famous women – their appearance, their fluctuating weight, their dress sense’ (Gritten, 2002: 33), I would argue that such celebrity reporting can be seen not simply as a trivial or tyrannical comment which privileges appearance over talent, or attractiveness over ability, but rather as a potentially empowering discourse for the female reader. This chapter will focus on heat magazine in its role as ‘the bible of contemporary celebrity culture’ (Llewellyn-Smith, 2002: 114), and consider the ways in which this particular title can be read as an empowering post-feminist text that validates feminine meanings and competences for the female reader. I am using the term post-feminist here to point to those contemporary discourses of gender within the field of media and cultural studies which suggest that shopping and consumption can be understood as a ‘means to self-expression and control’ (Curran, 2000: 239).

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2012 04:45
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 19:40
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