When it comes to celebrity culture in contemporary society, we are all guilty of watching “trashy” reality T.V. programs such as E!’s Keeping Up With The Kardashians and MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. We are also guilty of following these celebrities as they travel around the world and commit fashion failures by “stalking” them across numerous social media platforms. This celebrity culture that comes with new online surveillance, whether it’s our own tracking through Instagram or Facebook or whether it’s an organisation’s tracking of the websites we click onto, is both constructive and destructive.
The benefits of celebrity in our contemporary society is that ‘celebrity economy has insinuated itself and become part of many other domains and disciplines of life, from the famed in the medical profession, to the way that we read and interpret politicians'(Marshall 2010, p.498). Marshall (2010) depicts the influence of celebrity culture and the impact of surveillance as ‘specular’, underlining the ‘mirror effect of contemporary culture’ (2010, p.499). It is this mirror, a ‘trick mirror’ or a ‘sophisticated two-way mirror’ (2010, p.500) that provides a symbiotic relationship between the celebrity, organisation and consumer. Marshall (2010) explains this mirror that we all use in day-to-day life through our online presence as:
not just for our own personal consumption and they are not just conveyed images as television broadcasting or film exhibitions have produced. An audience does not just receive the images and text. What is built into new media is the exchange and interchange of a networked culture. Friends and followers on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter post responses to images/text and thereby become part of the media ebb and flow of social networks. (2010, p.500)
Where online surveillance becomes arguably destructive, especially on younger individuals, is when surveillance and celebrity combine to create a false perception of reality. MTV’s original series My Super Sweet 16 ‘documents the lavish rituals of affluent teenagers’ 16th birthday parties and other coming-of-age events’ (Johnson 2010, p.202). My Super Sweet 16 provides a level of ‘expression of the encroachment of celebrity culture into the lives of ‘real’ families’ (2010, p.202), therefore attempting to unite ‘celebrity status and culture through fashion and clothing’ (2010, p.207). By integrating what is perceived to be the values of 16-year-old girls, MTV has helped to develop that image of celebrity by differentiating the famous ‘from “everybody else”‘(2010, p.207). The surveillance therefore of ones own individual style and the products they’re interested in purchasing provides businesses with the power to manipulate what the consumer can see online, thereby falsely portraying a sense of individuality.
Although the temptation to fall into fear and apprehension is decisively more appealing than welcoming surveillance with open arms, we must all find a positive attitude toward this area of our lives that is arguably unavoidable. The ‘vulnerability of those who makes themselves visible’ who are ‘dependent on self-display to maintain the power of self-definition’ (Fawcett 2011, p.954) alludes to the worldwide need for our own ‘mirror of new media’ (Marshall 2010, p.500). Therefore, although we may laugh at the insensibility of reality T.V. shows where life seems much larger and each movement is aired for all to see, it is undeniable that we all perform these same actions and gestures in our daily activities in public, which were practised previously by mimicking these shows and practising in front of your own mirror at home. There must be a greater respect toward online surveillance as ‘the scary Big Brother quality of surveillance is not how it is perceived as we have with complicity entered into an era where the doors/windows to our personas are perpetually left ajar’ (Marshall 2010, p.502).
FAWCETT, JH 2011, ‘The Overexpressive Celebrity and the Deformed King: Recasting the Spectacle as Subject in Colley Cibber’s Richard III‘, PMLA: Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America, 126, 4, pp. 950-965, Humanities Source, EBSCOhost, viewed 20 August 2016.
Johnson, R 2010, ‘The discreet charm of the petite celebrity: gender, consumption and celebrity on My Super Sweet 16‘, Celebrity Studies, 1, 2, p. 202, Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File, EBSCOhost, viewed 20 August 2016.
Marshall, P 2010, ‘The Specular Economy‘, Society, 47, 6, pp. 498-502, SPORTDiscus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 20 August 2016.