This anthology offers a guide to studying the stars and the phenomenon of stardom. Its concern is not individual stars but the cultural and theoretical issues stars raise, although particular stars feature as examples. These are largely American because Hollywood has established the dominant paradigm of both mainstream cinema and stardom. However, Behroze Gandhy and Rosie Thomas' work on Indian stars highlights both the separate identity of other world cinemas and the national specificity of Hollywood.
The hegemony of Hollywood is also a reason for the almost exclusive focus on film stars. Yet stardom arose in the theatre before burgeoning in the cinema, a relation discussed in a number of these essays. Latterly, with the break up of the studio system and the emergence of the star as independent producer, freer to choose roles and focus on acting rather than image, the production of the bezazz and gossip of stardom appears to have passed from the cinema to the music industry or sports world. However, as Kobena Mercer's closing analysis of Michael Jackson's pop video, Thriller, suggests, while other entertainment industries may manufacture stars, cinema still provides the ultimate confirmation of stardom. So it is argued, the very different forms of television produce personalities not stars; to achieve stardom means breaking out of the medium. Nevertheless, as David Lusted shows, television circulates and elaborates star personae who originate in other entertainment fields. 1
The star challenges analysis in the way it crosses disciplinary boundaries: a product of mass culture, but retaining theatrical concerns with acting, performance and art; an industrial marketing device, but a signifying element in films; a social sign, carrying cultural meanings and ideological values, which expresses the intimacies of individual personality, inviting desire and identification; an emblem of national celebrity, founded on the body, fashion and personal style; a product of capitalism and the ideology of individualism, yet a site of contest by marginalised groups; a figure consumed for his or her personal life, who competes for allegiance with statesmen and politicians. Not all these facets can be equally represented