Although sociology is by definition a study of society there are key areas that despite being of high public interest are often considered of low scholarly value. These ‘glossy topics’, as Ruth Penfold-Mounce shows in this guest post, have to fight hard to gain recognition as being worthy alongside highbrow theory or policy based research with measurable impact factor. Glossy topics it would seem often need validation from research funding in order to be taken seriously. Significantly studying glossy issues is incredibly popular amongst undergraduates and if we are to provide research-based teaching more support and recognition should go to those grappling with glossiness in a sometimes hostile scholarly environment.
Kerry Katona and Cheryl Cole have similar personal histories, and comparable journeys to fame. Both come from distinctly working-class families in the north of England, both have been in girl bands; in reality shows; and in very well publicised marriages. But their realities now are polls apart. In this guest post, Laura Clancy asks: How, and why, has Cole transgressed her working-class roots to become the ‘nation’s sweetheart’, idolised by girls as the pinnacle of femininity, whilst Katona is mocked for being a ‘chav’- the ultimate working-class insult? Why is fame and success measured by distance from working-class-ness?
Angelina Jolie announced to the world on May 14, that she had undergone a double mastectomy as a preventative measure against breast cancer. She received widespread acclaim not only for her bravery in her decision to undergo the surgery, but also for her choice to speak publicly about it. Her decision would no doubt have been a tremendously hard one to make especially as much of her on-screen work relies on her appearance. While not meaning to undermine the significance of Jolie’s actions which resonated with many women around the world, there were elements of the op-ed piece written by Jolie, in the New York Times that left Tamara Heaney feeling uneasy. In this guest post, she unpacks what else this piece has to say about women and breast cancer.
So it’s been a crazily busy year for us at CelebYouth: kicking off the website, finding our six case study schools, doing 24 group interviews and collecting data for our 12 celebrity case studies, taking part in a range of events, and now starting on our 48 individual interviews. These individual interviews are an opportunity to explore participants’ education and work aspirations, the influences on these and intersections with gender, class and celebrity. In this post, Laura and Heather pull together some of their initial thoughts on the first 17 interviews in our two rural schools in the South West that we’ve called Hardy and Merlin.
As part of a wider research project exploring young people’s identities and experiences of unemployment Dr Lisa Whittaker asked a group of young, working-class, Scottish women aged 16-18 about role models and who they look up to. In this guest post she shows how their discussions offer fascinating insights into their aspirations and how these are represented (or not) in celebrities and celebrity culture.
“If you have an undying passion for something, why not make money from it?” that’s Liam’s opinion, a young entrepreneur working in the creative industries. But Liam’s passion is not only a personal asset, it’s a national asset. If young people are regarded as emblems of the future then it’s no surprise that their passion to make money is now considered to be nationally important. The current political message is ‘Let’s harness young people’s natural drive and ambition to help rescue the nation from economic distress – after all they are our greatest resource!’ In this guest post, Anita Biressi and Heather Nunn question the values driving the growing convergence between education, enterprise and popular culture.
All of the young people we’ve interviewed distinguish between good reasons and bad reasons for being famous. Kim’s written about the frequent disgust directed towards Kim Kardashian both in our interviews and in the media – not only is she called upon as an example of ‘famous for nothing’ celebrity, but she is seen to have risen to fame via a sex tape and has chosen ‘inappropriate’ bumpwear consisting of tight clothing and lowcut tops. However, it’s in 15-year-old Giovanni Plowman, aka Tampon Girl, that we can most clearly see the strong association between female bodies and notions of ‘undeserving’ celebrity. In January 2013 Giovanni Plowman uploaded a video of herself to YouTube which showed her sucking on a used tampon – after she’s removed it off camera – and then throwing up, also off camera. She shot to fame overnight – even becoming an internet meme. What shocks me, isn’t the video itself, it’s the reaction: the widespread – almost universal – disgust that her actions, and she, elicit both online and from the young people we’ve met in our research.
We’ve already started to talk about our work to journalists, in our universities, and even at the South Bank Centre. We have more conferences and events planned in coming months. We’re doing a workshop at Gender and Education Conference at London South Bank University on 26th April and a talk at the Education and Learning: Sociological Perspectives Conference at the University of Surrey on 25th September. As more events come up we’ll post them on the website, tweet them and announce them in the newsletter so do sign up on the right if you want to stay in touch.
It’s strange (and slightly disturbing) to think that I’ve been researching young people’s educational and employment choices and aspirations for over a decade now – from my doctorate, that looked at gender and the choice to study maths, to this current project. One thing I’ve noticed is how young people increasingly cite happiness as a rationale for their choices. This happiness is seen by those citing it, both to offer freedom and to guarantee the future. But in this post I want to question this by showing how happiness carries its own constraints.
I’ve recently submitted my strangest work-related Amazon order ever for research materials to support our case studies of twelve celebrities so I thought I’d share it via the blog. We’ve picked twelve celebrities who came up repeatedly in our group interviews and who seemed to have significance for the young people to whom we spoke. They are: Beyonce, Bill Gates, Emma Watson, Justin Bieber, Kate Middleton, Katie Price, Kim Kardashian, Mario Balotelli, Nicki Minaj, Prince Harry, Tom Daley and Will Smith. In addition to focusing on three sources of data across six months, we’re swotting up on our case study celebs’ back stories hence the Amazon order. So, what did we choose?