A dazzling book... that manages to pack an astonishing amount of detail and depth into a modest number of pages... Highly recommended.
The Star as Icon: Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumptionby Daniel Herwitz
Princess Diana, Jackie O, Grace Kellythe star icon is the most talked about yet least understood persona. The object of adoration, fantasy, and cult obsession, the star icon is a celebrity, yet she is also something more: a dazzling figure at the center of a media pantomime that is at once voyeuristic and zealously guarded. With skill and humor, Daniel
Princess Diana, Jackie O, Grace Kellythe star icon is the most talked about yet least understood persona. The object of adoration, fantasy, and cult obsession, the star icon is a celebrity, yet she is also something more: a dazzling figure at the center of a media pantomime that is at once voyeuristic and zealously guarded. With skill and humor, Daniel Herwitz pokes at the gears of the celebrity-making machine, recruiting a philosopher's interest in the media, an eye for society, and a love of popular culture to divine our yearning for these iconic figures and the role they play in our lives.
Herwitz portrays the star icon as caught between transcendence and trauma. An effervescent being living on a distant, exalted planet, the star icon is also a melodramatic heroine desperate to escape her life and the ever-watchful eye of the media. The public buoys her up and then eagerly watches her fall, her collapse providing a satisfying conclusion to a story sensationally toldwhile leaving the public yearning for a rebirth.
Herwitz locates this double life in the opposing tensions of film, television, religion, and consumer culture, offering fresh perspectives on these subjects while ingeniously mapping society's creation (and destruction) of these special aesthetic stars. Herwitz has a soft spot for popular culture yet remains deeply skeptical of public illusion. He worries that the media distances us from even minimal insight into those who are transfigured into star icons. It also blinds us to the shaping of our political present.
Herwitz (humanities, Univ. of Michigan; Aesthetics: Key Concepts in Philosophy) examines some complex explanations for the role of celebrity in popular culture. Referring to numerous examples of celebrity icons (e.g., Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly), he pays particular attention to Princess Diana, who embodied many of the divergent facets of an icon in modern society-eliciting high public admiration yet prompting a media obsession with her personal problems and tragedies. Herwitz skillfully analyzes the tightly interwoven components of this pattern, citing relationships to television, film, and escalating consumerism-all playing a role in the building up and tearing down of icons, a process that loses sight of the celebrity as an individual. Herwitz approaches the subject with intelligence and fine scholarship and offers much to think about.
Yet another tantalizing element of the celebrity mystique is glamour-a maddeningly indefinable quality sought by many but seemingly attainable by only a few. Gundle (film & television studies, Warwick Univ.; Bellissima: Feminine Beauty and the Idea of Italy) takes an expansive look at glamour from past to present in a narrative rich with captivating details and commentary. He examines the many categories in which glamour is measured-wealth, sex appeal, beauty, spectacle, daring, urban sophistication, professions, and products. He discusses its arbiters-photographers, major magazines, writers-and some of its diverse symbols through time such as Marie Antoinette, Marlene Dietrich, Gianni Versace, and Princess Diana, setting their historical context and discussing their eccentricities, excesses, and style-setting trends. Gundlesums up glamour as a look, action, or way of life more fascinating and colorful than that of its audience. Both of these books are essential for those with a keen interest in the sociology of popular culture and stardom.
Carol J. Binkowski
- Columbia University Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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Meet the Author
Daniel Herwitz is the Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of Humanities at the University of Michigan. His Columbia University Press books include Heritage, Culture, and Politics in the Postcolony (2012) and, with Lydia Goehr, The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera (2006).
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