When thinking about masculinity and popularity, the ‘coolest’ boys have traditionally been those who physically intimidated their peers through aggression, misogyny and homophobia. In this guest blog, Max Morris asks whether this model of popularity still exists for members of the YouTube Generation by looking at some of the UK’s most popular vloggers (or video bloggers). He argues that these vloggers reflect how many boys today find homophobia to be unacceptable and value public displays of affection – often by sharing photos, videos and emotional care work on social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Adam Curtis’ new documentary Bitter Lake, available via the BBC iplayer, focuses on the relationship between ‘the West’ and Afghanistan and is described as “a new, adventurous and epic film that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can’t really see the world any longer”. In this post Heather and Kim explore what kind of story Curtis tells and why it matters.
As 2014 began we looked back on our top posts of 2013. As it ends, we look back on the top posts of 2014. So below we’ve collected together the 10 blogs that we’ve published this year which have accumulated the most unique visitors according to Google Analytics. It’s great to see that this Top 10, captures the CelebYouth mix of our own blogs and guest posts, covering the findings of the project, reflections on our methodology and on the experience of doing a research project more broadly, and discussions of education policy and celebrity culture.
In 10th place we have…
While recently Kim and Heather explored Beyoncé and Emma Watson’s positioning as ‘feminist celebrities‘, it’s equally important to think about a kind of celebrity closer to home: the reality TV personality. Young people may worship the god-like figures that grace their movie screens and concert stages, but the smaller screen offers a more accessible, more relatable celebrity through the phenomenon of reality TV. In this post, guest blogger John Brasington suggests that reality TV is one of those instances where celebrity culture can encourage a young person to take on new projects and develop through experiential learning, as they see other young people develop skills, whether that’s in singing, baking, or fashion designing. These reality TV personalities are ‘real’ individuals, who can also challenge dominant stereotypes about class, race, gender, or appearance.
In recent years there has been increasingly widespread debate about the ‘appropriateness’ of young people’s ambitions within areas such as the media, politics and education. In this blog post Sarah Hill looks at narratives of femininity and aspiration in the British film Kicks, exploring how the film deals with the classed and gendered nature of dominant notions of girls’ aspirations and success in the twenty-first century.
I’m looking for a job. In fact, I’ve made up my mind to find a career that I can learn and grow into. Who am I? I’m a hard worker. I set high goals and I’ve been told that I’m persistent. And I’m thinking, television news might just be something that I love as well as something I happen to be good at. Now I know that today’s work culture no longer caters to the job loyalty that could be promised to earlier generations. But I believe that good things come to those who work their asses off and that good people who reach the top of the mountain, didn’t just fall there. My motto is, ‘if you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket’.
This pitch is made by Lou Bloom in a television studio in the latest Jake Gyllenhall film Nightcrawler. Lou does indeed find a career in television news – securing and selling hard-to-get footage of crime in Los Angeles to attract viewers to the network and stoke white suburban fear in Los Angeles. Lou and the media industry in which he works are amoral – money matters more than respect or dignity: captured by the explanation Lou is given by TV News boss Nina (played by Rene Russo) that ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. While most of the online discussion of the film has focused on its depiction of US TV news and media ethics, Kim and Heather became fascinated by the way the film uses Lou to link the taking on of neoliberal values – hard work, persistence and aiming high – to psychopathic and bullying behaviour. In this post they explore the film’s messages about contemporary work.
What is feminism? Does feminism have an image problem? How can we work across differences of race, class and sexuality? What are the biggest contemporary feminist issues? What role is there for men within feminism? How do we deal with conflict among feminists? These were just some of the questions that were addressed the panel discussion on intergenerational feminisms and media cultures which took place last week in a a packed room at the Marx Memorial Library in London. Forming part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science, the event was hosted by Jessalynn Keller and Alison Winch from Middlesex University. Heather went along and found it inspiring to have feminists aged from 16 years to 60 on the panel and an atmosphere based on unity rather than tension. In this post, she shares some brief insights from the event.
UK retailer John Lewis produces a new Christmas-themed TV advert every year. Retaining a successful formula, they combine a sentimental visual narrative, a (some would say sickly) sweet message about giving, and audio comprising a contemporary British pop star performing a classic love or festive song. This annual offering is an eagerly awaited event, with the adverts being described as the ‘2 minutes that launch Christmas’. Last year’s production – featuring Lily Allen in the singing role – reached not only millions of homes via a TV set, but also went viral, surpassing 10 million views on YouTube. In this guest blog post, looking beyond John Lewis’s explicit aims, Steve Roberts casts a critical eye on the latest ad, asking what messages this carries about gender, sexuality and relationships.
Back in July we launched a new website examining celebrity’s significance in the construction of young people’s aspirations, trying to make the our findings as widely accessible as possible. This mythbusting site is aimed at those who work with young people – including teachers, careers educators and youth workers. The site presents evidence from our two-year study to debunk a series of powerful and stigmatising myths about young people, including ‘young people want to get rich quick’, ‘young people have low aspirations’, ‘young people don’t value hard work’ and ‘young people are obsessed with celebrity culture’.
One of the lovely things about working on this project with Heather is that we both love cinema. Frequently we will send text messages to each other about a recent release. We both love film for what pleasures it offers as well as how it stimulates ideas about sociological issues that we are engaged with. Very frequently these texts articulate things that our academic language cannot – similar to the ways in which Heather has written about fiction. Recently we both watched a film that generated very different reactions, as discussed by Heather in her recent blog on Gone Girl‘s Amy. In this post, Kim responds by exploring her anger at the film’s misogyny. (Please note there are spoilers so don’t read this if you are yet to see the film.)