Monday, February 22, 2016

Core Post #1: Crafting the Star as Event

In Brown's "Audrey Hepburn: The Film Star As Event", many of the circumstances which allowed Audrey Hepburn to become such a phenomenon are paralleled in the early-to-mid 2000s where a new wave of Star Obsession grew in American society, with paparazzi photos selling for millions of dollars and channels like E!, MTV and VH1 capitalizing with 'inside looks' into the homes and parties of the rich and famous, eventually leading to a culture that nearly idolizes famous-for-being famous celebrities like The Kardashians with their perfectly curated lives.

One of the first things Brown mentions is the emergence of new technologies employed in cinema while the American economy boomed and new fashions and gadgets invaded the home. Likewise, at the turn of the millennium, technology was more available and affordable than ever with televisions and computers available in most homes across the country. Dial-up became Wi-Fi, TiVO recorded all of your shows and with just the click of a button, consumers were able to tune into the lives of fictional New Yorkers on Sex and the City or fictional Angelenos in "Cribs" to see how a certain sect of society lived, regardless of the consumer's actual location. Fast fashion made in China made it easy for stores like Forever 21 to knock off popular trends very quickly and very cheaply. For tweens and teens, powerhouses like The Disney Channel pushed the wholesome lives of stars like the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus on and off screen, flaunting their promise rings and virginity vows, while MTV phenomenon Laguna Beach: The Real OC became an example for how to highlight one's hair or buy the perfect frosted lipstick. However, whereas the article refers to the "Disneyfication" of European cities like Paris and Rome, in the 2000s it was instead the lives of wealthy celebrities that came to be seen as a playground. Shows like "My Super Sweet 16" or "The Fabulous Life Of....[Holiday Superspenders, Pop Divas, Celebrity Baby Showers]" entrancing us for twenty four hours a day with how the other side lives. But this time, instead of only a single celebrity becoming an "event" such as what happened with Audrey Hepburn, celebrity itself became the event.

Another aspect of celebrity back in Hepburn's era that Brown mentions is the curating of the star image. Fashion designers were a key part of a celebrity's image, along with the proper construction of press releases and magazine articles. This was equally true in the early mid 2000s, with magazines like People or US Weekly paying millions of dollars for Angelina and Brad's first baby photos, and flying off the shelf once they did. Of course, these magazines are now struggling and so are the above mentioned star-centered reality TV specials, but that's because stars have become even more accessible and have invaded our homes more, not less. With the rise of social media, stars are now able to have perfectly curated Twitter feeds, YouTube channels and Snapchat accounts, with their teams crafting an image to their idea rather than allowing the press to do it. The Star becomes an event not only on a red carpet or on the cover of People, but every time they pop up on our feeds. As difficult as crafting the Star as Event was before, with nearly a herd of hired people around in case on had a wardrobe malfunction at an event, the job became even more work as the display of the star became constant. One cannot escape from a fan easily snapping a photo on their iPhone and posting it to their account, nor can they themselves slack and fail to post, otherwise their fans might get angry and have their attention grabbed with the next, shiny new thing.

Of course, although crafting the star as event has become a more constant job than ever, it has also given more autonomy to celebrities in crafting their brand. Before, the media created huge ordeals over celebrities and their "secret divorces", "sneaking off to rehab" or "cheating on their spouse?!" These catchy headlines created tension between stars and the infotainment media that consumers devoured, being shocked and entertained all at once. Like Audrey Hepburn herself insisted, stars today have a bit more autonomy over their image. They are able to reveal before the paparazzi ever get ahold of the information, "confiding" in their followers as they shout, laugh and sometimes cry along. This further crafting of the star not only brings the star into our homes but into our lives as we the consumers feel as though these are people we really know, a sensation that brings us time and time again to buy a pop diva's CDs or go see an actor's movie. This "relationship" and artifice of authenticity between the entertainers and entertainees is also something on which many celebrities' careers have begun to depend, especially in areas such as blogging or vlogging, where some stars have gotten even bigger than those in the mainstream.

Within today's climate, much like in the climate of the past, Audrey Hepburn would've still been a star. There might've been a few different reasons, as in contrast to Brown's ideas of Europeanism versus Americanism, in the modern era America's neocolonialist attitudes and media have secured it as one of the most pervasive cultures in the world, with the modern media equally mostly interested in American stars. However, regardless of nationality, the most famous female stars today still tend to embody many of Hepburn's ideals. While Brown makes the distinction of the American Mammarian versus the Continental Waif, we could now say that we have "classic" beauties like Kiera Knightley or Natalie Portman (all too problematic as this trend tends to equate a certain classic beauty with white thinness) versus (an equally problematic) exoticized, eroticized and often fetishized bustier types such as Kim Kardashian or Beyonce, which do tend to be women of color. Hepburn was definitely the former, and even helped craft that image. Brown states that Hepburn's "gamine appeal could be translated into an exotic otherness", but in today's more diversified world, this would've rang less true. She represented many of the ideals mass media upholds today in their leading, mainstream ladies: youth, whiteness, thinness, cosmopolitanism, holidays and not work, and patriotism derived through war as Brown remarks that she reminded American audiences of the worth of fighting WWII. In the 2000s and 2010s, she woud've invaded our homes with even more force than before. Hepburn required a different climate back then to rise to stardom, and this climate appeared again in the modern era, with the difference being that the Audrey Hepburn type is now the standard and not the exception to the rule.

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