Celebrity Capital: Rebecca Loos
Writing in the online Fairfax publication Radar, Ben Cubby asks:
Is Casey Donovan really Australia’s most promising young singer? Possibly. But for every enraptured viewer loosing off votes for Australian Idol there was someone watching the pampered stars and wondering if they could do better. Many of us nurture a private urge to ditch the office job and do something original, but most creative types have to get there the hard way. No free training and advice, no house, clothes and media spotlight, just singing, acting, shooting or writing between waiting on tables and scrubbing floors.
I’ve been thinking about this for a number of reasons. I’m a sometime reality tv tragic, and I’ve been intrigued for a while about the cultural significance of the desire for fame that seems widespread in our late modern culture.
My friend and fellow sociologist, Dr Susan Hopkins of UQ’s School of Journalism and Communication, in her book
Girl Heroes: The New Force in Popular Culture, wrote:
In this historical and cultural context, the achievement of celebrity is a potent fantasy for millions of girls and young women. Most girls dream of being popstars, models or movie stars because they know from an early age that celebrity means power. Many feel they have not really achieved unless they have achieved some measure of fame. The girl hero is a pivotal figure in girl culture because she knows the way from everyday anonymity to the enchanted world of celebrity.
As the SOOB festival in Brisbane holds an alt.careers day and a Creative Industries Micro-Business Forum, and as my own university, QUT, introduces a generic degree in Creative Industries (not requiring an audition as the traditional Academy of the Arts programmes did), should we be thinking of creativity as something that one works for, or something that is innate and is “discovered”?
One thing that troubled me about the introduction of a vocational degree in Creative Industries requiring no particular demonstration of any creativity was the degree to which it seeks to capitalise on the desire for fame in many teenagers’ minds. Similarly, Schools of Media and Journalism produce many more graduates than will ever find employment in the media. Might these students be better off studying a liberal Arts degree? Or is that just a sign that I’m irredeemably old-fashioned? Am I mired in stereotypical illusions about artists in garrets or the autonomy of the aesthetic?
There’s no question that we live in a culture and a society where the commodification of everyday life and its symbolic referents have been supplemented by the aestheticisation and mediatisation of everyday life. We buy phones as much for their look as their functionality. We gossip about Big Brother. If male, we wonder about whether we are metrosexuals, and we purchase products to construct our own identities. We can express our spirituality through consumption – of New Age festivals and gurus’ workshops, for instance.
We live in an age where celebrity is currency, star capital that can be parlayed into money. Celebrities are famous for just being famous. Think Paris Hilton. Or, a good example who features in today’s bizarre news story de jour, Rebecca Loos. Loos, the daughter of a Dutch diplomat, came to fame as the PA for David Beckham. Allegedly involved in a torrid affair with Becks (himself married to a manufactured celebrity Spice Girl), Loos has parlayed a celebrity scandal into a tv acting gig (playing a sports psychologist for a soccer team), a a reality tv appearance, and is reported to be emulating Bridget Jones by writing a fictional diary for publication.
There’s almost a tension here – not just between ideas of celebrity and creativity, but also between a certain Protestant work ethic and a desire for instant media recognition.
There is no doubt that Ben Cubby is right and the royal road to fame often involves poverty, hard work and a long training in one’s art or craft. But as a society, we don’t support this road. We look askance at claims from budding writers or actors that they should be supported by Social Security payments. We charge big dollars for tertiary acting or dance courses. We underfund Arts institutions, and insist they be subservient to the logic of the market. Is the corollary an acceptance that our entertainment should come from instantly manufactured and branded stars plucked from obscurity and teleported to our magazine pages, tv screens and compact disc towers via reality tv?