Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America

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Overview


Moving from People magazine to publicists' offices to tours of stars' homes, Joshua Gamson investigates the larger-than-life terrain of American celebrity culture. In the first major academic work since the early 1940s to seriously analyze the meaning of fame in American life, Gamson begins with the often-heard criticisms that today's heroes have been replaced by pseudoheroes, that notoriety has become detached from merit. He draws on literary and sociological theory, as well as interviews with celebrity-industry workers, to untangle the paradoxical nature of an American popular culture that is both obsessively invested in glamour and fantasy yet also aware of celebrity's transparency and commercialism.

Gamson examines the contemporary "dream machine" that publicists, tabloid newspapers, journalists, and TV interviewers use to create semi-fictional icons. He finds that celebrity watchers, for whom spotting celebrities becomes a spectator sport akin to watching football or fireworks, glean their own rewards in a game that turns as often on playing with inauthenticity as on identifying with stars.

Gamson also looks at the "celebritization" of politics and the complex questions it poses regarding image and reality. He makes clear that to understand American public culture, we must understand that strange, ubiquitous phenomenon, celebrity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520083530
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 3/2/1994
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 270
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author


Joshua Gamson is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Explaining Angelyne 1
1 The Great and the Gifted: Celebrity in the Early Twentieth Century 15
2 The Name and the Product: Late Twentieth-Century Celebrity 40
3 Industrial-Strength Celebrity 57
4 The Negotiated Celebration 79
5 Props, Cues, and the Advantages of Not Knowing: Audiences in the World of Celebrity Production 108
6 Hunting, Sporting, and the Willing Audience: The Celebrity-Watching Tourist Circuit 129
7 Can't Beat the Real Thing: Production Awareness and the Problem of Authenticity 142
8 Believing Games 172
Conclusion: Celebrity, Democracy, Power, and Play 186
Appendix: Theoretical and Methodological Notes 197
Notes 217
Works Cited 239
Index 249
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