Character, Values and Celebrity Culture

Written by Heather. Posted in News

Celebrities make the headlines with such regularity, you could be forgiven for concluding that as a society, we are completely obsessed by celebrity culture. We consistently volunteer an interest in the things celebrities do or say – particularly when their antics are less than admirable. There tends to be a sense of ambivalence about our attitudes towards celebrities: they are either adored or exalted; defended or attacked; glorified or demonised; derided or revered. In this guest blog post, Gary Walsh from Character Scotland, explores the relationship between young people, celebrity culture and character education.

Performing ‘ordinary’: Prince Harry, charity and military masculinity

Written by Laura (Researcher). Posted in News

Prince HarryRecent comments by blogger Brent Blake that Prince Harry is ‘more real than most people you know’ echo sentiments in our interviews with young people that Harry is ‘a normal guy’. But what does it mean for a millionaire British royal to be seen as ‘ordinary’? In this blog post, Laura reflects on initial analysis of our group interview and case study data, arguing that Harry’s performance of ordinariness serves a powerful rhetorical function in erasing oppression and justifying continuing national and international inequality.

Good Luck Laura and New CelebYouth Research Post

Written by Heather. Posted in News

At the end of February, our researcher Laura Harvey leaves her research post on the CelebYouth project to take up a permanent lectureship in sociology of media at Surrey University. Kim and I are really sorry to see her go but also feel very lucky to have worked closely with her over the last 16 and a half months. At an individual and project level, we have benefited enormously from her contributions. Happily Laura will continue to be involved in the project.

While she is irreplaceable, we are going to do our best and are advertising for a three month full-time researcher position from mid April to mid July to work with us. This person will have a focus on analysing the celebrity case study data but will also be involved in a wide range of other aspects of the work. If you’d like to apply or know anyone who might be interested in the job, the details are available through Brunel web recruitment: If you select School of Sport and Education under ‘category’ when you search, it should come up. It will be advertised on from tomorrow. This post may suit someone with a background in education, media studies, cultural studies or sociology. The deadline for applications is in a couple of weeks on 12th February. Do contact me at if you have any questions.

Is it really so hard to work out why some young people are having their aspirations frustrated?

Written by Team. Posted in News

Over the life of this project, the CelebYouth team have challenged government rhetoric of low aspirations, arguing that this not only lacks any evidence base, it also neglects the broader structural context within which young people’s ideas about their future are formed and realised. In this post, guest blogger Tristram Hooley argues that the provision of career support can be pivotal in helping young people to realise their aspirations. He argues that many young people have high aspirations, but are unable to fully realise them because of lack of support. Tristram has recently published a research report which describes how resources, staffing and political support for career education and guidance have declined since the election of the Coalition Government. As he explains, this decline has resulted in a dramatic loss of support for most young people and deleterious consequences.

‘Real world research': video of Laura’s presentation at the MEA student conference

Written by Laura (Researcher). Posted in News

Laura gave a presentation in December at the Media Education Association Media Magazine student conference, held at the Institute of Education in London. The conference is aimed at  students studying A-level media. The presentation aimed to give students some insight into ongoing empirical research on media and share some of the emerging findings from the project, focusing on the different discourses of ‘hard work’ in our interviews with young people. There is a video of the presentation below, and you can find a copy of the slides here: Real world research Media Mag.

There’s a report of the conference, including  slides from the other presentations, at Pete’s Media Magazine Blog, run by one of our Advisory Group members, Pete Fraser.

Media Magazine Conference 2013: Laura Harvey from Clips and Trailers on Vimeo

Burka Avenger: a new superhero?

Written by Heather. Posted in News

Young people are at the heart of the CelebYouth research, whose lives are surrounded by various cultural influences such as celebrities, music, video games and superheroes. In this post the project’s administrator Bazgha Sultana, explores a new female superhero ‘The Burka Avenger’. Superheroes are an iconic part of our culture and have a significant impact on children, young people, indeed on all of us. Many such as Iron Man and Batman featured in the young people’s celebrity talk, suggesting that these superheroes are extremely powerful and fascinating and give inspiration, protection and hope.

What do young people think about Will Smith?

Written by Team. Posted in News

Well, 2014 has well and truly started and there’s no let up for the team with lots of analysis being undertaken in the coming months. Last year we finished all our school data collection and began coding and analysing the data from the group interviews, and we’ve now moved on to looking at the individual interviews with our participants which explore in greater depth their own aspirations and imagined futures. These interviews were fascinating to conduct and now to return to. We’ll be posting blogs about those individual interviews soon, but we thought we’d start the year by reflecting further on some of the  initial analysis we’ve conducted on our group interview data.  In these group interviews, we focused on exploring young people’s views on celebrity culture: the celebrities they liked, disliked, and how these evaluations of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ celebrities were made.  As we’ve discussed elsewhere, while many of our 12 case study celebrities generated relatively mixed views among our participants, one celebrity in particular was universally liked, if not loved: Will Smith, variously located as an inspirational role model, a dream father, an entertaining friend and ‘cool guy’.  In this blog post Kim explores some of the patterns and themes in young people’s talk about Will in those group interviews and begins to question what these might reveal about young people’s collective sense making in relation to aspiration, success and race.

Our top posts of 2013

Written by Heather. Posted in News

As 2014 begins, we thought we’d borrow an idea from Sociological Imagination and look back on our top posts of 2013. There are many possible ways to measure this – most tweeted, shared on facebook, viewed, commented upon, etc., or some hybrid of these But we’ve kept it simple using the number of unique visitors as supplied by Google Analytics. The top 10 below, 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… 


  • School of Sport and Education, Brunel University
    Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH


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