The concept of “celebrity” is becoming less defined as society move towards a world in which individuals have the capacity to effectively broadcast themselves to the world via social media platforms which allow individuals to form a collective voice in cyberspace.
Despite this, there is still a culture of celebrity obsession within Western media. We simply cannot get enough of the latest tabloid exploits of superstar singers, bad-boy actors and trashy reality stars.
It is this culture which leads to the establishment of the “celebrity” label.
Defining celebrity culture as ‘the extra-textual versions of public individuals’ (Marshall 2012), it can be seen how the media feed this desire for information about our favourite idols that we can consume and dissect.
A recent advertising campaign by Virgin Mobile capitalises on this interest in the form of Doug Pitt (otherwise known as “Brad Pitt’s brother”) who features in a series detailing life in the shadow of a celebrity. Ironically, while epitomising the face of “normality” it champions the process of celebrity endorsements to sell the product. It is not Doug Pitt we identify with, it is his famous brother. Virgin are essentially trading on ‘the value of public personalities’ (Marshall 2012) via a (cheaper) surrogate.
The success of the campaign via social media as well as traditional media platforms could be attributed to the concept of the ‘celebrity economy’ (Marshall 2010, p. 498) – specifically, the break-down of the barriers between celebrity and the normal. We are offered a glimpse into Brad Pitt’s life through his brother and are momentarily reassured that Brad is indeed, just like us.
Marshall, PD 2010, ‘The Specular Economy’, Society, Vol. 2010, no. 47, pp. 498-502.
Marshall, PD 2012, ‘Celebrity and the public persona: the language of cultural exchange and movement from the private to the public and vice versa’, ALC215 Globalisation and the Media: Week 8, Deakin University.