Women's Studies 2161A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Celebrity Culture, Georges Cuvier, Photoplay

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Celebrity Culture and Early 20th Century Cinema (C2)
3 Types of Celebrity (Chris Rojek):
1. Ascribed celebrity – result of heredity
2. Achieved celebrity – athletes, film stars, politicians
3. Attributed celebrity – “famous for being famous”
* These are not absolute.
Do we think about celebrity differently on the basis of gender?
Historically, female celebrities have been more sexualized than males
Technologies of Celebrities
Promotion (internet, social networking, TV, film, radio, magazines/news)
Film and video
Photography (incl. paparazzi)
Photo editing (ie. Photoshop)
Star system (PAs, publicists)
What motivates image alteration?
Intentional to make females “lighter” than males in films (White book by
Richard)… whiteness associated with purity, darkness associated with
Does the darkening of OJ Simpson’s image have racist/political motivations?
TIME magazine attempting to influence peoples opinions
Does race or gender make a difference to how images are changed?
Importance of Celebrity
93% of children want to be a celebrity: 33% want to be “anything as long as they
are famous”
Reality TV has increased notion of attributed celebrity
Historical Celebrity Culture
19th century celebrity culture dependent on gossip in coffee houses – access to
free newspapers (increasing literacy)
This celebrity culture was based in oral and print culture, not visual culture
Actors: Whores or Stars?
oIn 1600-1800s, female actors were assumed to be prostitutes
oIn 19th century, acting became more respectable and actors became
genuine celebrities
Vaudeville – allowed mixed sex audiences and performed in liquor-free halls
Minstrel Shows – performed in “blackface” and very racist, mid-19th century
Early narrative cinema
oEditing technologies not yet developed, which required people to get
things right the first time and it was quite a big production
Studio system: the practice of large motion picture studios:
(a) producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative
personnel under long-term contract
(b) pursuing vertical integration through ownership or effective control of
distributors and movie theaters
** Films were mainly identified by the actors in them – this relied on the creation of
stars to bring in revenues
Magazines like Photoplay became popular, used “dreamy like” images of
Roles for women:
oGood girl – primarily passive ie. Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford
oHeroic – “God’s Country and the Women” – extremely successful
(300% profit, grossing half a million) ie. Nell Shipman
oBad girls – sexualized vamp role, femme fatale, woman has sexual
control over the man, often foreign (sexual counterpart to wholesome
actresses) ie. Greta Garbo
Many celebrities were missed by the star system, mainly based on race… they
often were given stereotypical roles (Lillian St Cyr, Hattie McDaniel)
Advent of Visual Culture
Invention of visual technologies: the camera, moving picture camera, rotogravure
and printing, color printing
In 1800s, still and stiff looking photographs due to long exposure required, and
less “instant” (8 hours to expose, produce)
Illustrated newspapers depended on artists to draw the illustrations and engravers
to reproduce on printing plates
Film technology – early film had no narrative. People recognized early on that
they could capitalize on a star system to attract people to tell a narrative/story.
Mass culture – motion pictures, photojournalism
Theatre was aimed at bourgeois audiences
Class Systems
In Middle Ages, class was seen as stable and concrete.
Modern 19th century
oExpect people to be able to change social classes
o3 recognized classes = aristocracy, middle class, working class
oBeing “in service” meant asking permission to date/marry
oSince WWI, middle class definition has broadened (unionization of
formerly working class professions)
Marxist people began to critique class system – history is based upon economic
exploitation (proletariat VS bourgeoisie)
“The Awful Truth” by Michael Moore
White, Blue, and Pink Collar jobs
Saartji Baartman  “exotic” in 1800s
Placed in a human zoo, scrutinized by public & scientists
Exhibited nearly nude at time when it was improper for women to show skin
Georges Cuvier had an obsession with her genetalia
The Black Female Body
People thought their bodies were evidence that black people were more primitive
– they were fetishized and sexualized
Bodies were able to be consumed and appropriated by white audiences
Focus on buttocks  Josephine Baker exploited this fascination
Josephine Baker:
oFamous for her banana dance
oClearly stated her stage persona and herself were different (similar to
Beyonce with Sasha Fierce)
oIn Europe, her movements were drastically different than what they were
used to
oWas she perpetuating the stereotype of subverting it?
Laughing the entire time, she is never the victim of the stereotype
in her dances – she has attitude
Expresses her sexuality freely
Became role model for French women
oAmerica was against her sexual image
oLate on in her career, she appeared as Mary Queen of the Scotts “Grand
Dame” – this new image and experience in the military gave her some
kind of authority to speak on US matters
oUsed celebrity to change attitudes of people around her (ie. Refusing to
play to segregated audiences)
If you were a star in Hollywood, there were stereotypes you had to fit/persona you had to
project to remain a star.
Today in Film (2013 Centre for Study of Women in Film and TV)
15% of protagonists are women
29% of major characters are women, with only 30% of those being speaking roles
17% of crowds in film are women
Note: These statistics were worse in 2010-11, are getting slightly better