Academic journal article Genders

Fame Is a Losing Game: Celebrity Gossip Blogging, Bitch Culture and Postfeminism

Academic journal article Genders

Fame Is a Losing Game: Celebrity Gossip Blogging, Bitch Culture and Postfeminism

Article excerpt

Introduction

[1] From "outing" well known actors to breaking news of celebrity pregnancies or mental breakdowns, the gossip blog has become a key component of contemporary celebrity culture--one that is arguably usurping more traditional gossip forums such as the weekly magazine. Perez Hilton, one of the most popular gossip blogs, draws up to 7 million hits per day (LA Times) and in conjunction with other well known sites such as TMZ, Lainey Gossip, What Would Tyler Durden Do, Dlisted and The Superficial, it exerts a considerable influence on the way that celebrities are mediated in contemporary media culture. Such blogs report the scandalous, glamorous and everyday behaviors of celebrities at such a frenetic pace that traditional celebrity gossip delivery mechanisms are struggling to compete. Furthermore, gossip bloggers have the power to undermine the often carefully crafted image that the entertainment industry works tirelessly to cultivate and maintain. Sean Redmond asserts that "The everywhere of fame has the potential to offer new and liberating interactions and engagements for all those who are "made up" in fame, or for all those who regularly consume its stars, celebrities and personalities." (Redmond, 27) Gossip bloggers are helping to redefine this concept of the "everywhere of fame" whereby the intimate interactions between the blogger and audience can alter the public circulation of a celebrity.

[2] Blogs encourage a cynical awareness of the production of celebrity culture and encourage us to question the mechanisms through which we are positioned as consumers. Yet this questioning has its limits. In order to understand this more fully, it is necessary to examine the cultural function of the gossip blog and its use of the "Bitch" as narrator--especially as this relates to the mediation of performative markers of femininity within a post-feminist context. In particular, I want to ask how a recent shift to more malicious or "Bitchy" discussion of female celebrities, as well as the heightened profile of the female "train-wreck" celebrity, has been propelled by the rising popularity of gossip blogging. Indeed, what is particularly crucial here is how the female celebrity, which arguably represents versions of the "ideal" female body in the public sphere, can be understood within a Western neoliberal emphasis on individualism. Furthermore, although there has been a burgeoning collection of scholarship on both the tabloidization of news (Gamson, Biressi and Nunn), as well as the concept of contemporary celebrity culture (Cashmore, Rojek, Holmes, Turner), little attention has been paid to how gender is configured (and reconfigured) within this climate. It is also clear that gossip bloggers--Perez Hilton in particular--are pertinent examples of how celebrity culture is no longer considered as "cheap fodder" for the masses. As Jo Littler suggests;

Previously, for professional middle-class taste-makers, engaging with the gossip and tittle-tattle around celebrity culture was positioned as downmarket, flashy, sensationalist and trashy: as 'common'. Now, to know about it is important, even if this is accompanied by a vestigial sense of distance through irony (Littler, 8).

Gossip blogs plug this gap neatly, representing a seemingly "democratic culture" in which audiences interact with celebrity images in multiple and diverse ways.

The development of the gossip blog

[3]

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Blogging has been in existence since the mid 1990s when the concept of the blog evolved from more personal online diaries. Blogs gained widespread mainstream recognition when they became popular during the 2004 US Presidential campaign. Providing a journalistic mechanism to reach a twenty first century technology-dependent audience, blogging offers a means through which to stimulate and disseminate political debate on a global scale. …

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