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Limelight Speed Ahead: The Celebrity Addiction Problem and How We’re Digitizing Our Fix

By Maria Kern

The cult of celebrity in America has evolved to grandiose proportions since the days of glitz, glamour, and Grant. Popular media fosters a skewed perception of life in Hollywood, a town once ruled by star power rooted in talent and allure. The public has since lost interest in celebrities’ personalities and character traits.

Rather, we prefer to follow the everyday activities of the famous through a telephoto camera lens, demanding a view of even the most banal details of celebrity life. The economics of celebrity dictate that fame is based less on merit, social status, and talent than it is on the ability to market oneself as an individual and a brand worthy of recognition, whether negative or positive.

Eye on Celebrity, KoldCast TV’s popular entertainment series, offers breaking celeb news without requiring a major time commitment from viewers. The series allows fans to track stars in action as host Jennifer Reed delivers news along with insider commentary and detailed observations.

You are watching the latest edition of
Eye On Celebrity

Matt Damon’s bad bet, and the show
even Lindsay Lohan turned down.
Episode 49 of Eye on Celebrity

From grocery shopping to who was seen at what scene, the public eye has shifted focus from the pedestal of fame, exposing a new appetite for accounts of the everyday. Headlines like People Magazine’s recent “Pregnant Kate Shops for Jeggings at the Gap” point to what fans in the Internet age want most: to cultivate a likeness between themselves and their favorite star.

Consumers of entertainment media are fascinated primarily by the actions and missteps of the famous. Having developed such a low standard for cultural sustenance, we now turn to tabloid fare detailing the sordid lives of celebutantes, many of who would never have earned the merit badge of stardom in the golden age of Hollywood.

The ephemeral quality of stardom is particularly evident now, and compels certain celebrities to seek publicity on any grounds and by whatever means necessary. Although the idea of celebrity was once intangible, it no longer takes much to get noticed and create a brand around one’s image. Campaigns fueled by shameless self-promotion and this low standard for notoriety has led to a cheapening of the A-list.

Since Kate Middleton’s engagement to Prince William in November 2010, the documented “Kate Effect” has generated £1 billion for the UK fashion industry.

We wish to ascribe a certain lifestyle to public figures by studying their every move, no matter how insignificant those same activities (say, going for a run or picking up coffee) might be in our own lives. While stars were once revered and idolized, we now critique their decisions and question their worthiness, even as they command our attention to media they generate.

As voyeurs, we thus define for ourselves a celebrity’s humanity, as we have no entirely reliable insight into his or her actual life. That is, consumers look to celebrity dish to experience life in the spotlight, living vicariously through media consumption to escape a comparatively dull existence. Eye on Celebrity elevates the consumer experience with video footage (no doubt taking a cue from TMZ, though without the snark) and closing the gap between subject and voyeur, versus the still images of supermarket tabloids that depict a moment in time more in line with the conventions of old Hollywood.

On a recent episode of Eye on Celebrity, Bethenny Frankel cites “wanting each other to be someone we’re not” as the main reason for her divorce from Jason Hoppy in January 2013.

The landscape of gossip reporting is shifting away from print to digital, as evidenced by the surge in popularity of Internet TV series devoted to entertainment news. Gossip fiends invariably turn to the Internet for up-to-date info, and a show like Eye on Celebrity complements this predilection. Furthermore, these ITV programs offer a superior experience to network entertainment news in that they are instantly available, commercial-free, and unrestricted to a network time slot.

The ability to leave comments is another big pull for online audiences, a space where fans spare no one their opinions. Eye on Celebrity gives detailed accounts of star traffic, cutting no corners to offer viewers the highest quality insider access without the commercials or filler news in between segments. In addition, fans in search of a fix can follow the show’s Facebook and Twitter pages for updates and breaking news.

Stars rely so much on public attention for success that it takes a form of capital. They fight for a spot in the limelight and audiences pay up. The paparazzi and their famous subjects are entangled in a symbiotic relationship as mutually dependent cogs of the same machine. Both parties benefit economically, though by different means. Paps are paid in cash, while celebs are compensated indirectly via increased media coverage. To keep the machine running, celebrities must entice the public as continuing success is dependent on media exposure.

One celebrity-endorsed billboard advertisement you’re unlikely to see on the way to work.

A higher level of fame means more opportunities for advancement, and expanding across platforms into fashion, fragrances, and other product offerings allows celebrities to establish widespread influence in the marketplace. Self-promotion may include selling photographs to the very magazines and websites that produce and publish rumors, exposing, if unintentionally, the absurdity of celebrity.

Traditional news media has turned to entertainment coverage to increase ratings and profits. An ongoing discussion over the plight of the famous and recent controversy over the ethics of paparazzi culture has ignited a celebrity backlash. Celebs argue that these infringements on privacy have become a danger to personal safety, while fans say such sacrifices come with the many perks of fame. Nevertheless, Princess Diana’s 1997 paparazzi-related death, or more recently Justin Bieber’s lawsuit against a photographer for reckless driving are hard to justify as a fair price to pay for the limelight.

Left: A young Biebz tells it like it is. Right: LiLo doesn’t lose her fashion sense, even for a court appearance.

Some regard celebrity culture with disdain, though this rarely overshadows the need to know, and only makes devouring entertainment news all the more a guilty pleasure. Discerning fans may claim to follow only the philanthropic initiatives and political lives of stars such as Angelina Jolie and George Clooney. Both have capitalized on their heavily publicized lives as actors to promote various causes, positioning themselves as media darlings who also appeal to a wide fan base.

On the other hand, there will always be the starlet we love to hate. Building an entertainer up only to desert her is as American as apple pie. One need look no further than the current employability of Lindsay Lohan. In today’s Hollywood, the celeb du jour may be old news tomorrow, but we’ll still want to know what they wore, who they met for lunch, and whether that’s a beer gut or baby bump hiding under the terrible outfit they picked out.

Click to watch Episode 48 of Eye On Celebrity

Justin Timberlake (the musician) is back, and
Ryan Seacrest’s rumored Valentine’s Day proposal.
Episode 47 of Eye On Celebrity

Maria Kern is a contributing blogger at The Sixth Wall, Supercool Creative, and a student at Mills College in Oakland, CA. She is interested in creative marketing, film production, and the science of branding. Currently pursuing a degree in Legal Analysis, she finds creative inspiration in all things related to media and pop culture.

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