Last week Heather from CelebYouth took part in a Roundtable panel, at the University of East London, on the audit processes that are taking over UK universities. There were four speakers two male and two female. Unfortunately the Times Higher Education, in reporting on the event, only mentioned the men. In response, we’re publishing summaries of what Heather and Miriam David had to say about the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the existing Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Through the CelebYouth research, we have been exploring how celebrity talk is a way that young people play with their identity. Our most recent publication is a book chapter looking at how celebrity provides cultural resources that young people can, as Mary-Jane Kehily and Anoop Nayak put it, “talk with” and “think with’’. In the chapter we give three examples of how young people draw on celebrity as they negotiate and navigate transitions.
In this post Heather provides a taster of the chapter by looking at one of those transitions: age and maturity. We hope that, if you want to read about the other two – gender and sexuality and social status – you’ll encourage a library to buy the book: Play and Recreation, Health and Wellbeing. We are sorry that it’s so incredibly expensive. All our other publications are Open Access and the CelebYouth book (out in 2017) will be an affordable paperback.
In 1967, Guy Debord published The Society of the Spectacle, in which he argued that capitalism had reached a phase in which commodities (things to be bought and sold, rather than to be used) have colonised our entire existence. They have transformed all our social relationships. He saw this new phase as characterised by the spectacle of endless images from visual media of everything from fashion and consumer goods to war and terror.
‘Spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image’.
He located celebrity as a key part of our spectacular society. While his strident polemical style means he ignored contradictions and nuances, his ideas have been immensely influential. They inspired many of the people who took part in the 1968 uprisings in Paris and remain provocative. In this post we share some extracts from his book that speak directly about celebrity culture and celebrities, from JFK to Chairman Mao.
Academics are increasingly judged by metrics from the amount of external money they bring in to the scores they get from students. Critical among these are journal articles: how many articles, the rankings of the journals in which they are published, the number of times they are cited, and so on. So there is a lot at stake in assigning authorship of articles from collaborative research projects like this one. In this post, Heather and Kim share CelebYouth’s approach to authorship.
In the film Back to The Future, Doc Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) is incredulous when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) claims to have travelled back to 1955 from 1985 in a time machine invented by Doc’s future self. Doc Brown tests out Marty’s claim by asking him who the US President is in 1985. Doc’s response to hearing that it’s Hollywood star Ronald Reagan is sarcastic disbelief: “Ronald Reagan?!? The actor?!? Then who’s vice-president?!? Jerry Lewis?!?” However, as Doc learns more about the culture of 1985, he reflects that it makes perfect sense for the President to be an actor, as he has to look good on television.
Like Doc Brown, many of us are looking on in disbelief at the triumph of Donald Trump in the Republican Presidential race and his increasing strength in general election polling. In this post Heather argues that – like Back to the Future‘s Doc – if we reflect on the culture of 2016, we can understand why it makes sense for the President to be a Reality Television celebrity.
Young people’s access to housing is under the spotlight in the UK. The Housing and Planning Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords, and there are campaigns across the country for people to have a right to secure housing. Many of the young people we spoke to as part of the celebyouth project talked about where they lived now and in the future – with popular culture being one resource they drew on to talk about their lives. In this guest blog post, blogger and writer Chris Smith discusses how reality TV represents housing, and what impact this might have on young people’s aspirations.
What are some of the first ideas about social class that children are exposed to? For many children, movies provide early ideas about class inequality. About one third of young children watch a movie every day and many watch the same movies repeatedly. Children tend to grow up in neighborhoods, schools, and families that are all of one class, so movies offer children a key glimpse into a social class that is not their own. In a recent article in the Journal of Poverty, Jessi Streib, Miryea Ayala and Colleen Wixted present findings from their analysis how class is portrayed in children’s movies. As Jessi discusses in this guest blog post, their analysis illustrates that children’s movies provide a consistent and worrying message: that social class inequality is benign.
As the CelebYouth project has demonstrated there exists much public concern that young people today are too heavily influenced by ‘popular culture’ and in particular the ‘cult of the celebrity’. There have been particular concerns that children and young people admire individuals whose short-lived fame is based on luck, physical prowess or limited talent, rather than more enduring and socially beneficial achievements based on ‘hard work’. Relatedly, it has been claimed that the ‘cult of the celebrity’ is creating a climate in which young people seek to realise themselves through ‘fame’ and reject the more traditional pathway to success – academic achievement, hard work and educational qualifications. Despite all these concerns, very little research has been done on who it is that children and young people actually admire and dislike. In a recent paper in the journal Discourse, Sally Power and Kevin Smith address this gap, drawing on research into the heroes and villains of 1200 children and young people living in Wales. In this blog post they present an insight into their findings.
Back in December, I was interviewed on Radio 5 Live about my opposition to Syrian air strikes. The interviewer clearly had doubts about my politics but also about my job, evident when she introduced me in a sceptical tone as “Heather Mendick, who describes herself on Twitter as a freelance academic”. The idea of working as a freelance academic is unfamiliar, even to many university-based academics. The most common question I get asked by them is “What do you do?” In this blog I answer that question.
Like many researchers, at CelebYouth, we hope that our research is not just academic but can play a small part in social change. Through telling stories about the young people who participated in our study, we hope that those who read or hear them will gain a greater understanding of social inequality and be provoked to act. These are huge aspirations, but we see ourselves working within a collective of critical social researchers and see this change as something we do together through collaboratively building ideas and analysis. With these goals in mind, when we tell stories about our research participants, we usually seek to do so in ways that generate empathy in readers and listeners. But in this post, I suggest that provoking alienation may be a better strategy.