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Going Cheap?: Female Celebrity in the Tabloid, Reality and Scandal Genres

School of Film and Television Studies
University of East Anglia
Norwich, UK
June 25, 2008

This one-day event sponsored by the School of Film and Television Studies will 
examine how discourses of tabloidism, “reality,” and scandal shape the 
construction of female celebrity in contemporary and historical periods.  It 
originates with the broadly-felt sense that female celebrity (at least of a 
certain kind) is seen to be depreciating in value and it asks why this might be 
the case.  While work on stardom/ celebrity has acknowledged the existence 
of hierarchies of fame, surprisingly little attention has been paid to how such 
hierarchies are gendered. We will explore whether such hierarchies have 
intensified of late and the factors which are shaping this process, while also 
reflecting on how this shift might constitute a challenge for the next wave of 
scholarship on stardom/celebrity.

Questions include, but are not limited to: Is the perceived uncoupling of talent 
from fame in fact a particularly gendered phenomenon?  Is it postfeminist?  
How do new delivery systems such as YouTube and older ones like celebrity 
magazines favor and foster the spectacle of female “train wreck” celebrity? 
What kinds of narratives about wealth and class do these female celebrities 
anchor and how do they uphold or challenge nationalized/regionalized 
archetypes of the “chav” or “white trash?” How do the scandals in which they 
so often figure differ from those of some male celebrities (as was amply 
demonstrated in 2007 when a comparative dignity and respectful distance was 
accorded by a variety of media outlets after Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt)?  
What contemporary views about female sexuality are inscribed onto the bodies 
of these celebrities?  What drives the fascination/repulsion for “bad” 
women/girls (Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Rosie O’Donnell, Amy 
Winehouse, Charlotte Church, Jade Goody) in today’s celebrity culture and 
what are the historical precedents for this?  Related and proximate topics 
including divadom, celebrity feuds, the “toxic” celebrity couple, and the 
potential reinforcement of age-old cultural prohibitions on attention-seeking 
as “unfeminine” will also factor in symposium discussions.

We are accepting a limited number of papers for this event.  To propose a 
paper, please send a 300 word abstract and short biographical note by March 
15 to both Professor Diane Negra ([log in to unmask]) and Dr. Su Holmes 
([log in to unmask]) in the School of Film and Television Studies at UEA.

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Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: http://www.tcf.ua.edu