Celebrities’ self-presentation (notes on a paper by David P. Marshall)
Notes on Marshall, P. David. “The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media.” Celebrity Studies 1, no. 1 (2010): 35-48.
Marshall has previously written extensively about traditional celebrity, and starts his argument by reminding us of the educational function of celebrities in the representational culture of mass media. Celebrities were how we learnt about the latest hairstyles or what to wear. The “pedagogy of the celebrity taught us consumerism: “the individual had to be taught how to consume and to recognise the value of consumption for their own benefit”. Celebrities have always had a parasocial function: we gossip about them and can assume that our friends “know” them, although this relationship is of course asymmetrical: they do not know us.
Marshall characterizes today’s social media world as a “presentational culture”, in opposition to the representational culture of mass media, and describes how celebrities today maneuver between three ways the self is presented today:
- the public self, which is the official presentation, often managed by publicity assistants.
- The private public self, which is, in Marshall’s words, “a recognition of the new notion of a public that implies some sort of further exposure of the individual’s life”. The private public self is often managed by the celebrity themselves, who may find it empowering to wrest control of his or her self-presentation from the studio, much as in the 1950s when the film star rather than the studio became central.
- The transgressive intimate self is the third way in which celebrities are presented, and includes personal, often emotional items that should perhaps not have been shared but that become widely spread on the internet.
Marshall only writes about traditional celebrities and their use of social media, and doesn’t talk about bloggers who have become celebrities due to their blogging or about ordinary people who are “famous to fifteen people”. I wonder whether there might be something between the private public self and the transgressive intimate self, especially for non-traditional celebrities. And how does this transfer to ordinary people? What about people using Facebook to communicate both with friends and with strangers? Can there be an intimate, public self that is not transgressive? And can the importance of pedagogical celebrity in the last century explain our love of fashion bloggers?
Related work includes Alice Marwick’s Status Update and Terri Senft, both on micro-celebrities in social media.