This chapter deals with a narrow-but crucial-aspect of the film A Star is Born, namely, the notion and construction of 'authenticity'. The processes of authentication discussed are the guarantee of both star 'quality' in general and of the particular image of the star concerned.
It is easy enough to outline the components of Judy Garland's star image in terms of social meanings. I only have to refer the stages in her career to three different stereotypes-the all-American small town girl-next-door; the personification of showbiz good humour and bezazz; the neurotic woman-for you to pick up on the social resonances of her image. If we wanted to understand the specificity of the image and account for its particular appeal and purchase, we could look closer at the precise inflection her image gives to those stereotypes, their place in the wider cultural discourses of the period and the different concerns of the different known Garland audiences. We could begin to see why people paid to go and see her, and to differentiate between the various meanings that could be found in her image.
Yet none of this quite seems to deliver an understanding of the most common-sensical notions attached to the words 'star' and 'charisma'-notions like magic, power, fascination, and also authority, importance and aura. Part of the answer lies in the precise and differentiated relation between the values perceived to be embodied by the star and the perceived status of those values (especially if they are felt to be under threat or in crisis, or to be challenging received values, or else to be values that are a key to understanding and coping with contemporary life). But I also want to suggest that all of this depends on the degree to which stars are accepted as truly being what they appear to be.
There is a whole other way of relating to stars, a way that is essentially deconstructive, that refuses the guarantee that appearances are not deceiving. The most widespread, habitual form of such deconstructive reading practice is camp. Garland's relation to this, a phenomenon deeply rooted
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Publication information: Book title: Stardom: Industry of Desire. Contributors: Christine Gledhill - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 132.
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