At CelebYouth, we’re excited about Jeremy Corbyn’s rapid rise to position of runaway front runner in the UK Labour Party Leadership election. Our research on youth aspirations has documented the impact of austerity on young people’s lives and Corbyn offers the promise of a mainstream challenge to that. However, we’ve also been interested in the transformation of Jeremy into a celebrity and the fandom that’s circulating about him. In this post Heather highlights some examples of this and discusses why it matters.
When I turned on Twitter last Friday, my feed was filled with tweets reacting, usually with anger, often with humour, to the news that Rachel Dolezal had been exposed by her parents as a white woman passing as African American.
As details emerged, that she had attended Howard University, one of the US’s historically-black colleges, that she was president of her local chapter of the NAACP, that she was listed as a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University, the Twittersphere exploded. As I scrolled through these, I noticed how many tweets mentioned Beyoncé. In this post I reflect on what this tells us about race, gender and celebrity.
Although we completed the data collection for CelebYouth nearly two years ago, we are still working on the analysis. In particular, we are getting to grips with the rich and fascinating data from the 51 individual interviews we carried out with young people aged 14 to 17 across England. There are so many myths about young people’s aspirations – from the idea that these are low to the idea that they reflect an obsession with becoming famous. Although policymakers seem to want statistics, we believe that it is through stories of young people like those with whom we spoke that we can disrupt these ideas and show them to be the myths that they are. In this post Heather tells Homer’s story – one of just a few young people we met who aspired solely to traditionally working-class occupations. While this might mean that he figures in statistics as having ‘low aspirations’, his interview shows the importance of taking young people and their choices seriously rather than reducing them to clichés.
In Ansgar Allen’s book Benign Violence, he writes ‘for every academic luminary, there are 100 academic men and women who have had their spirits broken by the reductive demands of the academic machinery, which insists that they enhance productivity for its own sake, measured by values which are not their own’. He suggests that professors who want to ‘speak on behalf of that intellectual constituency’ treat their inaugural lectures not as sites of celebration but as sombre occasions ‘devoid of all glamour and charm’. While it’s unlikely any new professor would want to do this, in this post Heather takes Ansgar’s suggestion as a provocation to academics to consider the kind of careers we pursue. In this blog post she offers some thoughts along those lines, explaining why, unless something changes, she no longer want to be a professor.
Three years ago the European Union launched a now-infamous video to promote Science called ‘It’s a Girl Thing!’ This 45 second promo looked like a cross between a cosmetics ad and a girl group music video. Within days, the EU responded to the flood of criticism by withdrawing this video from YouTube and rewriting much of the rest of their campaign. Recently, Heather decided to use this video to spark discussion among participants in a science and equity workshop. After scouring YouTube she found just one version of the video remaining. Yet two weeks later it too had been taken down. In this short post she wonders why bubbling test tubes and lipstick propellants remain such a dangerous combination that they need to be censored from our internet commons.
I’ve been vegan for around 9 years and have been really excited in that time as more people understand what this means and more restaurants add vegan options to their menus. Part of this mainstreaming of veganism is that celebrities are increasingly associating with it. As the Guardian asked earlier this year:
Is this the week that veganism finally came of age? At the Baftas, stars will have the choice of opting for a special vegan menu that includes quinoa salad and roasted butternut squash; rapper Lil B has partnered with a vegan food company to launch an emoji app that delivers vegan versions of his lyrics to fans’ phones; and pop royalty Beyoncé has launched a vegan meal delivery service, called 22 Days Nutrition, with her trainer Marco Borges.
At first I loved reeling of a list of my favourite vegan celebs (Woody Harrelson, Lea Michele, Carl Lewis…) but recently I’ve become angry at how the celebrifrication of veganism is turning a political act into a lifestyle choice…
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…