Bachelor Dissertation – Exploring Celebrity Culture

Exploring the concept of ‘Celebrity’ – A closer look



Table of Contents




Chapter 1: The appeal of Celebrity Culture

1.0 – Introduction

1.1 – The ‘Getaway’

1.2 – The ‘public persona’

1.3 – Celebrity ‘endorsement’

1.4 – Fans and ‘Heroism’


Chapter 2: The link to paparazzi culture

           2.0 – Introduction

2.1 – The appeal of ‘paparazzi culture’

           2.2 – A ‘new breed’ of paparazzi and their technology

2.3 – Celebrity ‘stalking’: Princess Diana


Conclusion: A ‘fuelled machine’





The aim of this research paper is to explore the two concepts of celebrity –and paparazzi culture and in fact highlight the ‘inter-linked’ relationship between the two industries, creating a ‘mutually dependant’ connection or ‘fuelled machine’, that is able to prevail in contemporary society despite its clearly negative aspects. This research paper will have the aim to explore the reasons for the existence of this ‘relationship’ in addition to explaining its appeal.

In order for us to be able to understand this ‘relationship’ the first chapter of this research paper has the aim to explore the concept of ‘celebrity culture’, and to show where its general appeal lays. This will be done by first exploring its general concept and its general contemporary existence in relation to the celebrities themselves. Furthermore, the appeal of celebrities will be explained in terms of their ‘public persona’, i.e. their public image that we as an audience are confronted with followed by how this public persona can be used for celebrity endorsements, and how this adds to our ‘admiration’ of celebrities. Finally, this chapter will look at audience theory, and what relationship ‘fans’ and ‘audiences’ have with celebrities.

The second chapter of this research paper, will then explore the ‘link’ to paparazzi culture, and explain how it uses the popularity of celebrity culture, to be able to make an industry of its contemporary nature. The chapter will link paparazzi culture to celebrity culture, and reveal that it is more than a mere ‘bi-product’ of our contemporary celebration of ‘fame’, but an element of society that is passively encouraging the almost ‘obsessive’ fascination with celebrities.

In addition, this paper will further explore how this prevailing relationship is offering audiences a ‘distraction’ from worldly issues, shifting society’s consciousness into the admiration of what David Marshall calls the celebration of the ‘greatest achievement of capitalist society’. The reason behind choosing this topic is the mere fact that celebrity culture has become a valid topic of research, “as it presents a way to ‘read’ or analyze contemporary culture and social change” (Harmon 2005:98).

This paper has carried our 6 interviews, with candidates from age groups 16-51, in order to get a spectrum of opinion on the subject. The full transcripts can be found in the bibliography. Each interview lasted around 5-10 min, and all questions were asked in set order. Each interviewee was encouraged to speak openly, and the names have been anonymized in order for candidates to be able to remain anonymous. The interviews have provided intriguing insights into opinions of observers of the contemporary relationship between paparazzi and celebrity culture, and responses have visibly varied depending on age and experience, i.e. younger candidates often responded more openly to questions concerning the concepts of celebrity and paparazzi culture, where as older candidates seemed to have a more reflective and especially critical view on the subject.














Chapter 1: The appeal of Celebrity Culture

1.0 – Introduction

In order for us to be able to understand the influence paparazzi culture has on celebrity culture and explore their interlinked relationship, we firstly have to understand the general appeal of the concept of ‘celebrity’, which is not affected by paparazzi culture. This chapter will explore the concept of the ‘appeal’ of celebrity culture, and shed insights into its current existing form. This chapter will make use of Ernest Cashmore’s theory on celebrity, and question his take on the ‘material impact’ celebrity culture has on audiences. Furthermore, this chapter will include primary research material in form of recorded interviews of 6 participants aged from 16-51, to support the view that Cashmore is arguably underestimating celebrities’ material impact and hence their appeal. In addition, this chapter will also investigate other elements that need to be considered when discussing the appeal of celebrities.

When discussing the notion of ‘celebrity’, we have to firstly define what we mean by celebrity. For the purposes of this paper we will make us of James Monaco’s (1978, cited in Turner 2004:21) definition of ‘celebrities’, as he splits them into three categories: the “hero”, an individual that has claimed public fame through achievement, the “star”, who has achieved prominence through thorough development of his or hers “public persona” and the “quasar”, which is in accordance with Turner et al. (2000) definition, represents the “accidental celebrity” (Turner 2004:21). Although these definitions display differences in the concept of ‘celebrity’, contemporary society has in the opinion of this paper achieved a very much ‘interwoven’ relationship between the three, rarely differentiating between the “hero”, “star” and the “quasar”, as this will be shown throughout this paper.


1.1 – The ‘Getaway’

Celebrity culture, although not necessarily supported and followed by everyone in society, is able to prevail, as it is ‘omnipresent’, like the air we breathe. For most of us, it is has become a ‘natural’ element of society, i.e. a group of famous individuals that have acquired fame one way or another. Some others will claim their indifference to celebrities by uttering that they have become accustomed to it, like the constant threat of terrorism for example. But what are the reasons for celebrity culture’s celebration? The answer could lie in its definition. “Celebrity is derived from the French ‘celebre’ meaning ‘well-known, public’” (Marshall 1997:7). The ‘few’, that are celebrated by the ‘many’, the ‘public’, that is admired by the ‘private’.

According to Marshall, Webster’s definition of celebrity goes even further, “linking the word ‘celebrity’ to the Latin word ‘celere’, meaning ‘swift’, i.e. the English word celerity” (Marshall:7). The conclusion that stems from this is the concept of celebrity draws its power from elements outside of tradition. It therefore invokes no historic placement; it holds no “cultural package”, which makes it “untouchable from prejudices” (Marshall 1997). Celebrity culture provides a variety of different social themes that in a way, create ambition and strive, as at the same time arguably ‘educating’ the ‘masses’ to be weary of the possible ‘risks’ or ‘dangers’ of such culture that can often be ‘mistaken’ for an answer to the ultimate goal of life. Although this is the case, the main appeal of celebrity culture yet lies with its rewarding attributes, of money and fame. As Adorno & Horkheimer (1991) assert, “the ‘malleability’ of the masses’ consciousness: the star is meant to epitomize the potential of everyone in American society” (Adorno & Horkheimer 1991:125).

In a world where we as a society are subject to a variety of life altering events and facts, it almost seems natural that celebrity culture is able to prevail in its current shape, in the way that it is portrayed by different media platforms. One of its appeals arguably presents itself in form of a ‘getaway’, a ‘holiday’ for the mind and soul, however misguided it may be. With celebrity culture as we are experiencing it today, embodying popular themes of glamour, entertainment, wealth, opportunity and of course stardom, it somehow almost seems natural that we are inevitably drawn to admire its ‘glory’, like moths attracted to the ‘light’. Lets think of it like this:  a 3rd of the world are starving, a 3rd are overweight, a war on terror in Iraq commencing 2002, a major financial crisis in 2008 that is being said to have surpassed the Wall-Street Crash of 1929 in severity, a destabilized EU economy due to Greece’s bankruptcy, rising unemployment rates and seemingly never decreasing crime rates: all of these facts only begin to ‘touch’ the amount of information summed up in worldwide news broadcasts around the globe, notably most of it predominantly negative. Celebrity culture is therefore arguably providing insights into a different ‘world’ through celebrity news, consisting of glamour, gossip and more human based interactions, in which ‘real’ life issues, stress and anxiety can be forgotten.

Although this is the case Cashmore (2006) has cared to question before, “where stems the fundamental admiration for ‘people’ that have no ‘material impact’ our lives, that do not know we exist, and that often have no ‘conspicuous talent’?” (Cashmore 2006:2). Cashmore further asserts that never has there been a period in history, where more “‘energy’ and ‘money’ has been assigned to following the ‘exploits’ of people we have never met, and will most likely never meet” (Cashmore 2006:2). Although this is the case, Cashmore arguably underestimates the ‘material impact’ of celebrities on audiences, especially younger fans. A high school student interviewed for the purposes of this paper asserted after being asked what material impact she believes celebrities to have on audiences,  “if you mean, like how do they impact on me, I would say, that I try and stay on top with the latest fashion trends, as celebrities have the newest styles and clothes. My personal idol or role model is probably Heidi Klum. I’m really into fashion, so she is obviously the perfect person to follow(Isabel Charles, 16). In fact, this paper will identify the ‘material impact’ of celebrities to be a vital component to their existence, as they have emerged as role models and trendsetters, participating in advertising campaigns for a diverse range of products, which has inevitably embedded their public ‘existence’ and ‘importance’ in modern day society.

Cashmore (2006) perceives celebrity culture to have greatly profited through an increase in commodification and the rise of a consumer culture. Penfold (2004) concurs with this, by linking the concept of “celebrity victimization” and the “twinned processes of globalization and commodification” (Penfold 2004:295). The link lies with the fact that as mentioned before; celebrities have become ‘commodities’, comparable to “commodities on the stock market, which increase and decrease in ‘value’” (Penfold 2004:295).

It is therefore too simple to argue that the appeal of celebrity culture is entirely dependant on paparazzi culture. But in order for us to fully understand the appeal of celebrity we have to look at its roots, and first developments. Cashmore (2006) is convinced that the emergence of celebrity culture has its foundations in the 1980s, as the ‘surrounding conditions’, such as the loss of confidence in established forms of leadership and authority, made way for celebrities to become new ‘leaders’ and foremost, idols (Cashmore 2006:4). The case of Princess Diana (which will be explored further in chapter 2), the scandalous image of Elizabeth Taylor and in Cashmore’s view the most important factor: the rise of Madonna, could be seen as being part of those ‘conditions’. Dyer (1986) explains this concept further by elaborating more on the question of how we as an audience actually perceive the celebrity, and how their image attracts using the example of Elizabeth Taylor. “A series of shots of a star whose image has changed – say, Elizabeth Taylor – at various points in her career, could work to fragment her”, in order to portray her as a chain of  “disconnected looks” (Dyer 1986:2, 8-11, cited in Kitch 2000:175). Although this is the case, Dyer makes clear that “in practice it works to confirm that beneath all these different looks there is an irreducible core that gives all of these looks unity… “ (Dyer 1986: 2, 8-11, cited in Kitch 2000:175). Here Dyer (1986) is asserting that although the news media is providing seemingly ‘disconnected images of a star, they actually work to construct a ‘whole’, ‘real’ or believable image. “This coherent continuousness within becomes what the star ‘really’ is… Much of the construction of the star encourages to think… [that] we have a privileged reality to hang on to, the reality of the star’s private self”(Dyer 1986: 2, 8-11, cited in Kitch 2000).

Dyer has therefore recognized that the variety of different images that surround a star in the media, actually work to produce a coherent public image, that we as an audience believe to be star’s the ‘reality’. He is therefore suggesting that part of mass audience attractions with celebrities lay within the interest of the star’s ‘real’ self. The desire to identify with the star, and despite enjoying possible star ‘mischief’, to be able to identify with the celebrity and have the illusion of getting to know the ‘real’ person behind the celebrity, is what keeps fans fascinated. It is the interplay between ‘glamour’ and ‘scandal’, the thrill of realizing the possibility that these celebrities are actually no different from ‘you’ and ‘me’. As Harmon explains, it is not only the interplay between stardom and fandom, it is also the “evidence that an individual can in fact effect social change and rise in social status” (Harmon 2005:98). This is supported by Caughey, who asserts “identifying qualities he or she wishes to develop further, to ‘admire’ the star, make the star appealing” (Caughey 1984: 33–54, cited in Kitch (2000:175). The being the case, we have to note that the ‘visible’ possibility in a change of social status is mostly portrayed by a celebrity’s ‘public persona’, the ‘personality’ that we as an audience interact with.


1.2 – Public Persona

In order to understand the appeal of celebrities further, it is vital to comprehend the concept of the ‘public persona’, as it is this ‘image’ or ‘persona’ of celebrity that is directly ‘advertised’ to audiences. This part will heavily draw upon David Marshall’s theory on the public persona.

Marshall (1997) identifies the fact that the way in which fans interact with their celebrity ‘idols’ is via the ‘public persona’. Marshall (1997) calls the ‘public persona’ a “phenomenon; it becomes entirely ‘representative’”(Marshall 1997: 4). The ‘representation’ of the ‘celebrity’ by the media industries becomes its personality, a personality that is shaped by media influence, to satisfy its fans. Although it is mainly the representation of the star or celebrity that people are interested in, we will later establish that it is actually the interplay between the star’s ‘frontstage’ –and ‘backstage’, the ‘glamorous’ –and ‘scandalous’ image that keeps audience almost ‘addicted’ to the ‘distraction’. Richard Dyer (1979) supports this argument and asserts, “stardom is an image of the way stars live. For the most part, this generalized lifestyle is the assumed backdrop for the specific personality of the star and the details and events of her/his life…. It combines the spectacular with the everyday, the special with the ordinary, and is seen as an articulation of basic American/Western values … “(Dyer 1979: 39, cited in Gorin and Dubied 2011:604). Amid Dandy (cited in Holmes & Negra 2011) concurs with this public construction of an image. “Dandy is preoccupied with the predicament of the of the fabricated persona… that amounts to the assassination of the true character” (Holmes & Negra 2011:401).

It has to be noted that when celebrities appear in the public eye, media output concerning the celebrity is not necessarily affecting the star itself, but is much more manipulating his or her ‘public persona’ or ‘representative personality’ that has almost completely detached itself from the ‘real’ person, in order to gain the wanted public reaction. “The notion of ‘celebrity’ and the individual’s effortless move towards is the celebration of democratic capitalism. The ‘power’ of the celebrity that it embodies as an individual, stems from its representation, as well as its critique” (Marshall 1997: 4). Marshall again highlights the importance of the interplay between a star’s ‘representation’ and ‘critique’ that makes up the ‘celebration of democratic capitalism’. They seem to defy the norm, standing out of the ordinary, reaching unnatural success, possessing seemingly unreachable beauty and talent.

Marshall stresses that the “current meaning of celebrity is ridden with ‘inauthenticity’, an ‘inauthenticity’ that hooks us, fascinates us, as it differs so much from our own” (Marshall 1997:5). He places emphasis on the fact that it is the celebrity’s ‘reality’, contrasting to the norm’s reality, which fascinates audiences the most. One interviewee is confirming the wish to become a celebrity, whilst realizing the implications of the process behind it. Talking about the MTV show ‘Cribs’, Steve Evans notices the celebrities’ “humongous” homes are shown, and continues “yepp I want that too. It kind of conveys the message that being a celebrity will give you all of these expensive and really cool things.” He “wouldn’t mind having a house like that” and showing “MTV the inside of his [my] fridge”.

Our interviewee’s statement also concurs with our argument, and supports the statement that another attraction of celebrity lies within the extreme difference in lifestyle, and the way the difference is exposed by the media. Although this is the case, another interviewee’s statement arguably displays the ‘inauthenticity’ that Marshalls speaks of. Jason Pritchard asserts, “Although I have to say the modern concept of fame wouldn’t appeal to me. It seems to be ridden with parties and shallow show business, big homes, expensive cars, basically people telling you how to live your life. It’s not really for me(Jason Pritchard, 25). The ‘inauthenticity’ as highlighted by Marshall, is therefore also noticeable for a neutral observer. This observation provides much value, as one can observe different impacts of such culture on audiences, as clearly some consumers will be prone to engage in and ‘embrace’ such culture more freely than others.

Although this is the case, “the ‘celebrity’ status invokes the message of possibility of a democratic age”, a possibility that speaks and appeals to everyone, fan or not (Marshall 1997:5). “The democratic sense of the term is drawn from the original Latin, celebrem, which has not only the connotation of ‘famous’, but also of ‘thronged’. The celebrity, in this sense, is not distant but attainable – touchable by the multitude… It is the ideal representation of the triumph of the masses” (Marshall 1997: 5). Marshall places emphasis on the fact that the interplay between the aspects of ‘famous’ yet ‘attainable’, creating a “not a distant” element, but something reachable by the masses. From Marshall’s statement, we can argue that the way in which media industries present celebrities enhances audiences’ interest in them. It is the fine ‘interplay’, between the seemingly unreachable, and at the same time attainable that keeps audiences interested.



1.3 – Celebrity endorsement


As we have just explored the notion of the ‘public persona’, we will now look at how marketers use the star’s ‘public persona’ with ‘endorsement’ to advocate not only their products, but also promote the star’s image, hence raising the celebrity’s appeal. Celebrity ‘endorsement’ therefore means the aligning or association of the star with a certain product or commodity. The fascination then lies not only with the product, which is enhanced by stars presence but the star also benefits by further enhancing his or her ‘public persona’. A vital understanding of celebrity endorsement is the process of ‘commodification’ of not only the product but also of the star him –or herself.

The term ‘celebrity endorsement’ has up to this point only been put into the context of advertising, as celebrity endorsement through advertising is a relatively common technique. As McCracken (1989: 310) has defined the term and states “the celebrity endorser is defined as any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement” (McCracken 1989: 310, cited in ICORIA 2006). This has the effect, that not only the ‘product’ or brand, which the celebrity is representing, achieves exposure to the press, but the celebrity gains a similar considerable amount of exposure. McDonald and Andrews (cited in Turner 2004) use the example of Michael Jordan to expose this change and commercial opportunity celebrities pose to global markets, “as one year after signing Michael Jordan for Gatorade’s ‘Be like Me’ promotion, Gatorade’s annual revenues had increased from $681 million to over $1 billion” (Turner 2001:20, cited in Turner 2004:39). Thereafter, Michael Jordan’s image as an able expander of America market became his prime marketability (Turner 2004).

In addition David Beckham provides an excellent example of this process as he can be viewed as an ‘endorser’ for male grooming products, which ultimately displays an example of the ‘power’ and ‘influence’ of celebrity endorsement (Tungate 2008). In relation to this, it is important to consider celebrities as being part of an “aspirational reference group”, which Hoyer & Macinnis (2008) define as people that we as an audience “admire and wish to be like, but are currently not a member of” (Hoyer & Macinnis 2008:393). David Beckham in this case, presents himself as a member of an “aspirational reference group”, as we ‘wish’ to be like him to the extent of each individual’s desire. Through this endorsement, shown in advertisements for male grooming products, he has arguably changed the attitude of men toward male grooming products, i.e. the development of the predominantly ‘homosexual’ or ‘metrosexual’ aspect to increasing men’s general sex appeal (Tungate 2008). Not only was he seen as the ‘alpha-male’ definition of  ‘masculine’ through his successful football career and his marriage to his attractive and also famous wife Victoria Beckham, but was now ‘enhanced’ through the image of ‘taking care of himself’ in order to be more appealing to his wife, in this case highlighted through David Beckham’s release of his perfume ‘Signature’ (2007,2008, see appendix 2, bibliography). The notion of David Beckham therefore becoming an “aspirational referent”, proved a potent strategy in ‘inspiring’ or ‘motivating’ male audiences to go along with the ‘male grooming’ progression (Tungate 2008).

Furthermore, when considering the subject of celebrity endorsement we have to consider “associative reference groups”, which Hoyer & Macinnis (2008) generally describe a certain “group” that we are part of, may it be family, “a clique of friends” or even a school (Hoyer & Macinnis 2008:393). The importance of this type of reference group is the fact that celebrity endorsement encourages celebrities to not only be seen as “aspirational reference groups” but also as “associative reference groups”, in order to enable fans or consumers to personally ‘associate’ with the celebrity, ultimately encouraging consumer consumption, and making the consumer or fan feel ‘part’ of the “aspirational reference group”. In addition, this also raises the ‘importance’ of celebrities in consumer’s every day life, e.g. the ‘undercover’ and deliberate shopping in particular shops such as Starbucks by celebrities to encourage fans and audiences to do the same (Kurtz 2009).  “So marketers are finding new ways to differentiate Starbucks from its competitors. If you think you’ve seen Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner toting white coffee cups with the famous green logo, you’re right” (Kurtz 2009:511) (also, see Appendix 3).

If consumers can identify themselves with the celebrities, they are much more likely to represent “associative reference groups”. By shopping at Starbucks, an “aspirational reference group” follows an activity, which is easily immitatable by consumers. Thus, celebrities are becoming more ‘real’ and ‘associative’, i.e. an “associative reference group” (Hoyer & Macinnis 2008). Although this is the case, celebrities can also become a “dissociative reference group”, which in essence represents individuals with whose beliefs or general being we don’t wish to ‘associate’ ourselves with (Hoyer & Macinnis 2008:393). This arguably could be related to the case of Tiger Woods, as his contract with Gillette failed to be renewed, post the exposure of his secretive lifestyle and divorce to the press in 2010 (The Guardian 2010). The establishment of such reference groups, in general aids fans and audiences to find their ‘own’, ‘personal’ or ‘meaningful’ reference group of celebrities, i.e. I like stars ‘A’ and ‘B ‘ for ‘C’ and ‘D’ reasons, because I don’t like stars ‘E’ and ‘F’ for ‘G’ and ‘H’ reasons, therefore defining oneself through the establishment of the ‘other’. We can relate this ‘need’ to find ‘meaning’ in celebrities to ‘Maslow’s hierarchy’, which elaborates on basic human ‘needs’ which range from the need of self-actualization, esteems needs, love-affection-and belonging needs, safety needs to physiological or survival needs (Milliken & Honeycutt 2004:73). The fan or consumer is therefore looking for a way to ‘self-actualize’ him-or herself, and seek ‘safety’ in aligning him-or herself with a certain star, in order to establish his taste, and arguably the activities he or she is planning to carry out.

This fascinating link between the celebrity and the product can be further observed by the research conducted by a team of researchers from the BBC. A team of women was “presented with 40 colour photographs of famous and non-famous women deemed to be similarly attractive, and wearing the same footwear” (BBC 2010). After being confronted with a celebrity with the same footwear, the team of women “documented heightened activity in a certain part of the brain – the medial orbitofrontal cortex” (BBC 2010). The same was not observed when pictures of an attractive non-celebrity were presented, which suggests that this activity “links the celebrity with the product in a part of the brain associated with a feeling of affection” (BBC 2010). Here we can identify the almost ‘biological’ appeal or ‘affectionate feeling’ associated with celebrities, which stems from the media display and strategic placement of celebrities. In addition, for advertising companies and for the company producing the product, the celebrity provides an element of differentiating the product from its competitors. Similarly, the celebrity’s social ‘persona’, is being shaped by his or her choice to represent the product. As MacCracken continues, the celebrity has to present or “represent” the right “meaning”, which is in direct accordance with the product (McCracken 2005). Caroline Walters, one of the interviewees for this paper asserts, “companies are looking for suitable celebrities to represent their brand, whether it’s a suit, watch or even a car…” (Caroline Walters, 23) which supports McCracken. This shows that mere paparazzi attention is not the only factor enhancing the appeal of celebrities and further exposes the fact it is certainly not the only way in which celebrities become ‘commodified’. This is certainly supported by Cashmore, who recognizes that contemporary celebrity culture very much differs from the celebrity culture of previous decades as celebrities, besides “being devices for marketing films, music or the consumer products they endorse, celebrities have become consumer products themselves” (Cashmore 2006:3).


1.4 – Fans and ‘Heroism’

As we have no considered the effects and influence of celebrity endorsement and their impact of the appeal of celebrities, we will shed light on the relationship between fans and celebrities, and explore whether fans can be viewed to be passive consumers, drawn in by the miraculous ‘shining light’ of democratic capitalism, i.e. celebrity culture, or whether they are actually more in control of the ‘power’ of celebrities, as fandom is essential to the industry itself. In addition, this chapter will make clear, that individuals in the public eye do not necessarily require to have accomplished a substantial achievement, but rather enjoy public fame and admiration due to the contemporary status and meaning of ‘celebrity’, according to Monaco (1978).

Cashmore describes the relationship between celebrity and fan as a rather bias one. We as consumers and fans are in control of the ‘watch-tower’, the ‘virtual panopticon’, and are not subject to inspection, whilst celebrities take the role of the prisoners inside the ‘panopticon’ prison, who are constantly subject to inspection (Cashmore 2006:4). Once they withdraw from the ‘cage’, we as ‘inspectors’ lose interest (Cashmore 2006:4). Although this view has a certain element of validity, it is too simple to argue that celebrities are in a ‘virtual prison’. Gamson however concurs with Cashmore’s view, and points out that the true power of ‘celeb-making’ lies with us, the audience and asserts, “the position audiences embrace includes the roles of simultaneous voyeurs of and performers in commercial culture” (Gamson 1994:137, cited in Cashmore 2006).

The importance of the ‘audience’ and fans in general is existential for celebrity culture, as it is important for media industries that the wanted information reaches audiences, in order to keep consumers interested and feel ‘affectionate’ toward the ‘product’ or ‘celebrity’, as mentioned before in chapter 1.3 – ‘Celebrity Endorsement’.  As Ang (1991) asserts, “they need to be reassured that their messages actually reach those for whom they are intended: the potential consumers of the product advertised” (Ang 1991:53). As we have established before, celebrity endorsement presents itself as a way of ‘commodifying’ the celebrities and aligning them with a certain product or commodity, which ultimately results in the celebrity becoming a ‘product’ himself. As Turner (2004) asserts, “individuals can become brands in their own rights, with enormous commercial potential” (Turner 2004:39). The fan, although generally possessing an extent of ‘control’ over the celebrity by being able to choose whether to indulge in such culture or not, is ultimately forced accept the celebrity as an established ‘form’ in society, due to the current system inevitably encouraging celebrity culture, as stardom is principally rewarded. Marshall (1997) concurs and asserts “the dialectical reality is that the star is part of a system of false promise in a system of capital, which offers the reward of stardom to a random few in order to perpetuate the myth of potential universal success” (Marshall 1997:9).

Although this is the case, the processes that lie behind creating ‘heroes’ in celebrities are connected to the media portrayal of celebrities. As Kitch (2000) asserts,  “reporters make heroes, even mythic figures, of well-known people, conflating fame with newsworthiness and public significance; at the same time, they explain the famous in terms of the ordinary, uniting audience members with each other and with the celebrity through ‘basic’ values. This complex process, which is journalism’s role in celebrity, accounts for much of the appeal of famous people” (Kitch 2000:190).

This can arguably related to the notion of the constant pursuit of ‘hedonism’ in society paired with unknowingness or ‘unawareness’ of fans. Cashmore (2006) concurs with this, and believes that it is partly because audiences are not quite aware of the processes behind the notion of ‘celebrity’, which therefore make this ‘distant’ and yet so ‘reachable’ or even ‘attainable’ status highly intriguing. “They recognize the concept of it as part of the system, a constant of society next to the economy, sport and news, whilst not understanding its coming into existence and current form nor how the ‘process’ works” (Cashmore 2006:102).  Although this is the case, we have to note that the element of ‘fame’ gradually detaches itself completely from the self; “it becomes a pure form of representation”, which displays the gradual changing ‘nature’ of celebrity culture (Marshall 1997:5). This is supported by DeCordova (1990), who illustrates how the concept celebrity has come a long way from commencing in the ‘movies’ with audiences demanding the names of the people they saw on screen in American cinema to today’s modern Big Brother ‘free-for-all’ human exploitations (DeCordova 1990:3).

We can now consider the fact that the admiration of celebrities by its fans can debatably be linked to the notion of ‘heroism’. As Monaco (1978) has identified before, celebrities can certainly be considered “heroes”, although he claims this only to be true in the case of an individual having achieved something of considerable magnitude, as he uses the example of astronauts (Monaco 1978, cited in Turner 2004:21). Celebrities in that sense, can be seen as modern day ‘heroes’, however misguided this level of admiration may be, as contemporary definitions may certainly differ, shown for example by the Guardian headline: “Tulisa is feminism’s new hero”, after the X-Factor candidate’s Internet sex video scandal, was explained by yet another video of her on YouTube (The Guardian 2012).  As Marshall proposes “the celebrity embodies the ideal type ‘hero’ that emerges from the mass audience” (Marshall, 19977:). Additionally, Marshall yet recognizes another important factor and asserts “celebrity has become a metaphor for ‘value’ in modern society “(Marshall 1997:7). He further argues that “its links lie with popular culture and democratic culture” (Marshall 1997:7). This provides a link to the work of Herbert Marcuse and his theory on the emergence of false ‘needs’ and ‘desires’, and therefore the possible ‘false’ admiration of ‘false heroes’. Although this is the case, we cannot simply assume that all celebrity hero-like ‘admiration’ is false. As Turner (2004) asserts, “the consumption of the sports hero repeats the patterns we have seen in relation to film stars… to reach the core of the personality, to find out what ‘they are really like’, is as fundamental to the sports fan, as it is to the film fan” (Turner 2004: 106). We can again identify yet another link to the importance of the arguable ‘illusion’ of getting to know the ‘real’ hero behind the ‘mask’.

Taking this into account, it can be argued that the concept of celebrity is providing a source of arguably false ‘needs’ and ‘desires’ for its viewers and fans, which is ultimately enable to grow within a ‘false consciousness’ as Marcuse (1968a) further asserts (cited in Story, 2009:50). In this ‘false consciousness’, where the notion of ‘celebrity’ has seemingly been replaced with ‘value’, i.e. concepts of fame and glamour being established and accepted as the ‘ultimate achievement’ of society, celebrity culture is able to prevail. “The mass audience is central in the definitions of individual value and worth” (Marshall 1997:8). The primary research conducted supports the arguable emergence of ‘false’ desires and ‘needs’ in addition to the replacement of the celebrity status with ‘value’ in contemporary society. “And of course the whole being famous thing, which is obviously very appealing, in addition to the money. Getting into the coolest and newest clubs, amazing holidays, and so on” (Isabel Charles, 16). However, it has to be noted that celebrity ‘worship’ or ‘admiration’ will of course differ from individual to individual.

These false ‘needs’ and ‘desires’, arguably create a culture, in which ‘real’ achievements is neglected, and individuals who simply acquire public fame are viewed as celebrities, blurring the definitions between ‘hero’ and ‘quasar’ and ergo raising the appeal of celebrity culture, through giving the impression of being an arguably easily attainable status. “Indeed, the modern celebrity may claim no special achievements, other than the attraction of public attention; think, for instance, of the prominence gained for short, intense periods by the contestants of Big Brother or Survivor”  (Turner 2004:3)”. This has the consequence, that celebrity culture has turned into an ‘industry’. As Marshall (1997) asserts, “the concept of celebrities itself, constructed their own industry with the emergence of ‘movie fan magazines’, focusing on the life of celebrities and celebrating it” (Marshall 1997:8).












Chapter 2: The Link to paparazzi Culture – A ‘Fuelled Machine’

2.0 – Introduction


Now that we have established an overview of the appeal of ‘celebrity culture’ in general, this chapter will investigate and explore how paparazzi culture  ‘enhances’ celebrity culture, inevitably spurring its existence in its current form, and display the effect of society’s passive acceptance of this ‘inter-linked’ relationship, offering a ‘distraction’ to society. Furthermore, this chapter will also display the ‘interdependent’ relationship between the concepts of celebrity –and paparazzi, and how the notion of ‘heroism’ addressed in the previous chapter is exploited by paparazzi agencies.

Furthermore, this chapter will also dedicate some explanation to how paparazzi culture is giving ‘celebrity news’ a sense of ‘validity’, legitimizing its existence in the news through offering a “specialist” service with celebrity news (McNamara 2011:523). Moreover it can be argued that the paparazzi are increasingly utilized from both sides: the star is using it passively to enhance his public persona, where as the fan is using him to bound him within the seemingly reachable. This paper will show how paparazzi culture is arguably enhancing the appeal of celebrities, through offering audiences a look ‘behind the scenes’ exposing celebrities’ ‘human’ side so to speak, and exploring the almost ‘bi-polar’ relationship observers and audiences have with celebrities through the interplay of ‘idealisation’ and ‘destruction’


2.1 – The appeal of ‘paparazzi culture’

McNamara provides us with an interesting an analysis of what the term paparazzi implies, and furthers sheds insights into its rather negative connotation and asserts ”the name of Signore ‘Paparazzo’, the character of a news photographer in the film, was apparently derived from ‘papataceo’, a large type of mosquito” which ironically has been used to portray photographers like swarms of “pests”, chasing people, “‘surrounding them, [and] attacking them with their flashes’” (Wood 1999, cited in McNamara 2011:515).

It can be argued that celebrity news has become an element of the news industry, as it has passively gained public acceptance and a sense of ‘validity’. As previously argued in the chapter 1, paparazzi news is providing In addition to that, celebrity news in the way that it is produced by the paparazzi industry: full of action, quickly changing, exciting, glamorous and sometimes grotesque, provides a ‘welcome’ contrast to the everyday, fact-filled and often overly negative news broadcasts. This being the case, it can be noticed that it is also the ‘changing nature’ of paparazzi culture, which will be discussed in the following chapter, where part of its appeal lies. As Glynn (2000) asserts, “something dramatic is evolving a new culture of information, a hybrid New News – dazzling, adolescent, irresponsible fearless, frightening and powerful” (Glynn 2000:225). One of our interviewees for this study confirms this, and explains that the appeal for him, lies in the “’real’ character or a kind of ‘reality’ on celebrity life” is being presented through paparazzi imagery (James Pritchard 20).

While McNamara exposes the negative connotations of the term paparazzi, Hayward (2010) highlights the paparazzi’s contemporary role, placing more emphasis on the importance of the spectator in relation to paparazzi. “The paparazzo – a predator capturing candid and natural images of the famous, where the spectator rather then the star now commanded the photograph – as another factor in the construction of the celebrity image” (Hayward 2010:27). Through this development, the paparazzi have become a significant part in the rise of ‘old media’ entertainment journalism, “generating evidence of celebrities in newsworthy (and publicity-rich) contexts, whether in terms of scandal, romance or action settings” (McNamara 2011:516).

Cashmore (2006) also recognizes that “the paparazzi dissolved the previous demarcation lines between the public and private spheres” therefore completely redefining the concepts ‘privacy’ and ‘fame’ (Cashmore 2006:7).  As we have established, the appeal of such ‘service’ stems from the mass desire to be able to ‘reach’ the seemingly ‘unreachable’. At the same time as celebrating and ‘admiring’ our possible idols, we as an audience seem to endulge in ‘schadenfreude’. Hayward (2010) concurs with this, and asserts, “such photography… captured scenes of embarrassment, shame or humiliation in which adulation and schadenfreude mixed in equal pleasure (Hayward 2010:27).  Star ‘mischief’ has never before been more attractive.

Hence, their appeal goes both ways of the spectrum: it can almost be seen as a ‘love-hate’ relationship. The interplay between the reachable or attainable and yet so unreachable and the perfect and yet so imperfect, is constructed by paparazzi culture and therefore making celebrity culture one of the most thrilling and yet controversial elements of contemporary society. Celebrities in this sense have been put before a ‘social court’, where we as the audience act as ‘jury’ and paparazzi have arguably become the ‘judges’. The reason for such acceptance of paparazzi arguably stems from the notion that paparazzi are placing celebrities on the same ‘level’ as their respective fans. The ‘look behind the scenes’, rids the celebrity of ‘glamour’ and arguably puts him or her in a ‘real’ life context.

The concepts of ‘glamour’ and ‘scandal’ can almost be represented as ‘conjoined twins’, as one does not seem to go without the other. Marshall (1997) explains the appeal of paparazzi culture as the “tabloid press provides us with weekly updates on celebrities paired with a scandalous turn on the meaning of celebrity” with the notion of ‘possibility’ presented to us as audiences, “that the supposed unique talents of celebrities are vulnerable and subject to dramatic falls as well as equally impressive moments of contrition and resurrection” (Marshall 1997:3). This description of Marshall’s public persona can be seen in the case of British actor Hugh Grant as he compressed a tremendous rise in public fame, which was then quickly followed by a sex scandal. Similarly, American music star Chris Brown experienced a similar rise to fame enabled by his successful song writing and singing, after which he experienced public embarrassment as the violent attacks on his girlfriend and co-star ‘Rihanna’ early 2009, became public (

We therefore have to note, that the appeal of paparazzi agencies and online blogs can almost be seen as a natural consequence of the tremendous success achieved by individuals in the public eye. We want to see flaws in these seemingly perfect people. Flaws make us ‘human’, and we want to believe that these people are somehow no different from the masses. This links back to notion of associating with the star and celebrities becoming “associative reference groups”. The media portrayal is somewhat exaggerated to the extent of celebrities embodying perfection: healthy, rich, talented or good-looking individuals that form the ‘pinnacle’ or ‘dream’ of capitalist society, as Marshall (1997) views it. Seeing the perfection that is being portrayed by the news and entertainment industry is something that is pursued and envied. The idea that those ‘perfect’ people possessing flaws just like ‘you and me’, additionally, makes them accessible, i.e. bounds them within the limits of the seemingly reachable. Lumby (1997) argues that the interplay between the ‘private’ and ‘public’ elements of celebrity and paparazzi culture exacerbate the audience’s interest and admiration (Lumby 1997:108, cited in Kitch 2000:178). “Just as their images symbolize the intersection of the individual and society, they ‘live on a fault line between the public and the private’, writes Catharine Lumby (1997), who claims that ‘it’s precisely this ‘undecidability’ of where the public stops and the private begins that defines the fascination of contemporary celebrity’” (Lumby 1997:108, cited Kitch 2000:178). Therefore paparazzi culture is enabling such ‘interplay’ between the concepts of the ‘private’ and the ‘public’, blurring their boundaries and encouraging a frivolous culture.

Marshall expresses the relationship between the two concepts as following: “The celebrity exists above the real world, in a realm of symbols that gain and lose value like the commodities on the stock market” (Marshall 1997:6) This is due to the notion of celebrity possessing a certain element of ‘liquidity’, or lack of material basis (Marshall 1997:7). Whilst Marshall believes the celebrity to exist above the ‘real world’, he does not account for the fact, that it could be argued that the ‘relationship’ between paparazzi and celebrity, is creating this ‘separate realm’. A ‘swiftness’ that is exchangeable, and it is exchanged by paparazzi reporters who according to public opinion, will alternate the celebrity’s public image for the better or for the worse, i.e. keeping the public interested according to its demands. As Hayward (2010) asserts, “paparazzi are not so much the parasites as the inaugurators of this age” (Hayward 2010:28). This also can be related back to Penfold’s view of celebrities having become ‘commodities’ in their own right, comparable to commodities on the stock market, which alternate in ‘value’, and ‘handled’ by paparazzi agencies acting as ‘image brokers’ (Penfold 2004:295). This is supported by Marshall McLuhan who asserts, “the photograph commodified the bodies of the famous, multiplying them into ‘mass produced merchandise”: it is a “Brothel-without-walls” (McLuhan 1964, cited in Hayward 2010:26). McLuhan therefore agrees with Penfold, who stresses the ‘commodification’ of celebrities.

The interplay between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is providing a variety of information from both ends of the spectrum. This is not to say that audiences are entirely passive, as the concept of ‘celebrity’ has been identified as being ‘corrupted’, in a similar way that individuals strive to reach fame, simply to be famous. Cashmore supports this view and whilst recognizing that fans and audiences may not fully comprehend the concept of ‘celebrity’, they are much more aware of the processes that lie behind the paparazzi industry. Fans may be in awe of celebrities, “but they understand that there’s an entire industry at work and that they have been co-opted by that industry” (Cashmore 2006:6).

Although this is the case, the ‘relationship’ between celebrity and paparazzi is able to prevail as a separate ‘element’ in society. It has almost become “an untouchable institution”, a “separate realm”, that is that is not subject to ‘real’ criticism (Marshall 1997). It is not questioned, but rather seen differently everyday. We don’t condemn the photographer on the floor beneath Britney Spears’s car for looking up her skirt to take a picture of her underwear, but we condemn and judge the individual in the public for exposing too much of herself. Websites such as “” which is providing a forum for fans to upload their celebrity snapshots, make use of these images such as Appendix 3 (see bibliography) and conduct articles reading “just Britney Spears flashing her crotch again” ( à Industry based industry, provide numbers of her photos.

Holmes & Negra (2011), recognize the increasingly ‘visual aspect’ of celebrity culture, enabled by paparazzi photography. “The crotch shot could only emerge as a so-called ‘famewhoring’ maneuver in today’s increasingly specular celebrity culture…Paparazzi coverage and the online gossip sites that are its primary market… of images of this most intimate and elusive private part, heralding its entry into discourse as ‘vagina’ and ‘vajayjay’” (Holmes & Negra 2011:392). Holmes & Negra have therefore idenitified the purpose of such images, essentially shaping a celebrity’s public image, by exposing her as a ‘whore’, and arguably in the case of Britney Spears, as ‘bad mother’ for exposing too much of herself. This phenomenon seems to be predominantly negative, as women seem to be on the shorter end of the stick: whilst having to portray the image of a ‘superstar’ with the latest fashion trends they also have to be visibly taking the responsibilities of a ‘family mother’ seriously. The importance of a celebrities ‘respectability’, is especially important. à add quotation. Therefore such imagery is of course highly damaging, yet merely profit orientated. As men are not the object of a ‘female gaze’, but women are rather the object of the ‘male gaze’, imagery such as the ‘crotch shot’, is as frowned upon as it is encouraged, which ultimately has narcissistic consequences, not only on female celebrities, but also female audiences.

McNamara recognizes that this is due to paparazzi culture developing attributes of a “specialist service”, which has validated its own existence through providing information on a specific section of the news, in this case celebrities, which has become part of the news industry. Celebrity mistakes, events, may they be a wedding or even a tragic or mysterious death, have provided paparazzi agencies with “the opportunity to establish themselves as serious news providers, offering a “specialist service” on the latest ‘entertainment’ or ‘gossip’ news and updates” (McNamara 2011:523). Paparazzi culture has developed up to a ‘level’, that almost enables them to take the title of ‘social judges’, that we as consumers have passively accepted to set trends, determine who is ‘hot or not’ and allow to publicly debate life choices of celebrities, and generally people in the public eye. Here it has to be noted that this has gone beyond simple ‘gossip’ magazines, and can be seen in late afternoon celebrity shows on television, such ‘Leute Heute’ meaning People Today and ‘Exclusiv’ in Germany. It is therefore only logical, that the statement that paparazzi culture ‘enforces’ and arguably raises celebrity culture’s appeal gains credibility, when considering that paparazzi agencies have built an industry on this concept, realizing the high ‘demand’ or interest for such images. This is not to say, that paparazzi output is benefiting celebrity culture in a positive. In fact the relationship should be seen as much more exploitive.

Holmes & Negra (2011) concur with the fact that ‘new’ component of paparazzi culture, i.e. the focus on the ‘unprepared’ and ‘outrageous’ imagery, is the most important factor in its contemporary appeal. “While the paparazzi have always been a force in modern celebrity, the distinctive element of what Samuels calls ‘new’ paparazzi is that it operates in a pop culture environment in which even the most mundane shots are in demand” (Holmes & Negra 2011:393).



2.2 – The ‘new breed’ of paparazzi and their technology: Citizen paparazzi


This section will explore how the ‘changing nature’ of paparazzi in addition to the technological advancements in the field have further enhanced celebrities’ appeal by establishing an ‘inter-linked’ relationship, between the two concepts. In this section, it is important to bear in mind the notion ‘heroism’ previously mentioned, and the relationship between fans and their arguable ‘idols’, as this link explains the consequential notion of celebrity ‘stalking’ and ‘citizen photography’ rather well. The concept of the ‘masses’ being able to become ‘journalists’ or paparazzi themselves will also be explained.

A major shift in the nature of paparazzi can be observed as society has moved from freelance photographers selling images directly to editors of ‘cultural intermediaries’, to multinational agencies and their web-based brand entertainment news (Hayward 2010). The increase in non-regulated media sources such as online blogs for example, create huge followings and further spur celebrity embedment in contemporary culture (McNamara 2011:528). These online blogs and the general rise in an unregulated flow of media, have aided paparazzi agencies to become a significant part of the entertainment industry. Paparazzi agencies have expanded their arsenal to including fans and ‘gossip seekers’ through social networking applications and their individual blog sites (McNamara 2011:528).

The way in which we perceive celebrities in our contemporary society is to a large extent ‘managed’ or ‘controlled’ by the flow of imagery and information provided by paparazzi agencies, celebrity or ‘gossip’ magazines and television programs. Therefore we have to recognize the fact that the way in which the concept of ‘celebrity’ is brought to the masses and how we as an audience perceive them is sequential of how each individual in the public eye is reported about, which is to a large extent dependant on the output of paparazzi agencies. As Kitch (2000) has identified, “character is most effectively revealed through narrative and personalization” (Kitch 2000: 178). As Kitch (2000) states, a Time Editor explained the impact of those techniques, which “increase readers’ sense of connection with public figures” (1948: 63, cited in Kitch 2000).

“‘Telling a story’ about a person fuses image with moment (‘I remember the time when…’), animating selected aspects of personality and giving listeners a clear ‘idea’ of a person… turn[ing] him from an abstraction into an idiosyncratic character to whom we can easily relate… “ (Rodden: 126, cited in Kitch 2000). Kitch (2000) is of the belief, that writing techniques and the way in which celebrities are turned into ‘narratives’, i.e. the almost ‘diary-like’ following up on individual lives are essential in ‘hooking’ the public on celebrities. As in most of the coverage “narrative was not merely a style but a strategy” (Kitch 2000:180). Therefore magazines generally placed particular facts of the celebrities’ lives within what sociologist Fred Davis (1984: 21) called ‘core plots’, tales or stories in which, “‘despite our knowledge that the details are new, we nevertheless feel certain we have heard ‘the same story’ many times before’” (Kitch 2000:180). This exposes a kind of repeated ‘narrative strategy’, that in a way becomes a general ‘celebrity tale’ that we can relate to, and immediately associate with celebrity.

Cashmore (2006) places emphasis on the technological advances that have provided paparazzi with tools to capture all sorts of evidence, in a variety of different ways, and have partly aided the evolution of the ‘traditional paparazzi’ into more ‘citizen photography’ based industry. “Technology play a part in this: it wouldn’t have been possible without the telephoto lens now used by paparazzi” (Cashmore 2006:16).  This is certainly supported by McNamara (2011) who highlights that with the emergence of modern digital technology, a new ‘breed’ of paparazzi has emerged. With the increase in diverse social communication devices such as mobile phones e.g. Blackberrys and Iphones, audiences have now a greater and almost seemingly constant, never-ending supply of images and information surrounding celebrities in addition to having the ability to take high definition photos or videos at all times. This can be seen with the example of Belgian mayor of the city of Aalst and member of the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party in the Netherlands Ilse Uyttersprot, who was caught on tape on holiday in Turkey by tourists, having sexual intercourse on the top of a tourist attraction ( At this point one has to again note the change in ‘breed’ of paparazzi. No longer is the focus on capturing the star or celebrity in a fortunate position; the focus has in fact shifted to grasping a moment of celebrity mischief or mistake. “New breed of Guerilla paparazzi show increasingly more aggressive behavior in order to provoke controversial (and therefore valuable) behavior captured in images and clips to be able to sell them on to tabloid agencies” (McNamara 2011:522). McNamara highlights the fact that not only lies the focus on stumbling upon star ‘mischief’, but paparazzi also ‘provoke’, in order to receive the wanted reaction.

This can be shown by examples of star-paparazzi confrontations. Due to the level ‘acceptance’ that paparazzi as an industry have attained, paparazzi photographers have become more ruthless in their behavior when interacting with their target celebrities. In the case of actress Reese Witherspoon in the June of 2005, reports to have been followed by a paparazzi photographer, who in the process of trying to take a picture of her and her children in a gated community, was later charged with “child endangerment and battery as he was said to have hit a 5 year old child with his camera and allegedly pushing away another” (Cashmore 2006:247).

With the increase in digital technology, ‘amateur’ photographers have been able to incorporate themselves easier than ever into the market. Snapshots, images and clips have never been easier to capture and sent off to paparazzi agencies for a corresponding wager. In 2007, according to ‘’, an anonymous couple sold a photograph of singer Britney Spears and her “48-hour” partner for $150’000 ( On their home page, ‘’ offer each photographer who posts a photo at least half of the earnings that agency make from the photo. “You will make 50% of every sale (We take 50% for marketing, accounting and archiving)” (, actively encouraging audiences to take photos, offering a clear incentive. Additionally, paparazzi photographers often provide their own take on a story surrounding an image, which displays their ‘journalistic power’. “The structure of paparazzi agencies has therefore developed into ‘citizen photographers’” (McNamara 2011:522). The technological developments in digital photography have shaped the establishment of paparazzi agencies as well as photography in general as Howe (2005) asserts “today’s lightweight long lenses and digital cameras capable of working in low light levels mean that … the victims often don’t even know their pictures are being taken until they see them in the next edition of US Weekly, People or Hello! Magazine” (Howe 2005: 22, cited in McNamara 2011:517). Not only have the new technologies enabled more ‘efficient’ paparazzi coverage of celebrity life, but has also encouraged the increasing number of paparazzi around the globe, as digital technologies are easier to attain in contemporary society, paired with staggering reward prices for celebrity snapshots. This can be seen by candid photographs of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt being sold at $500 000, which in 2005 proved a record setting figure (McNamara 2011:517).

The biggest turn paparazzi industry can be witnessed today, as more and more citizen photographers take celebrity news into their own hands, and redefine the concept of ‘news’ ( The emphasis now lies not with portraying stars in the most glamorous way on red carpets and social events, but more on hiding in trees and taking that $200 000 snapshots of celebrity X kissing celebrity Y. “The tabloid industry is attempting to turn us all, tourists, club-goers and taxi-drivers, into one ubiquitous mob of paparazzi” ( Media outlets generally encourage viewers or fans to post their celebrity images and “websites have sprung up to act as photo brokers. In a recent 20/20 News piece, Us Weekly reported receiving 10’000-15’000 photos overnight. In the end, the media wins for getting more photos for less cost” ( Sidney Matrix concurs with thus statement and asserts, that due to the increasing demand in “un-aesthetic images, which is present in the most established paparazzi agencies”, ‘amateur’ photographers are able to enter the market (Matrix 2006:209). This is supported by the fact agencies such as ‘Scoopt’, ‘Cell Journalist’ and ‘SpyMedia’ have already been in the process of encouraging amateur photographers to send in their photos. Prices per photo have been said to vary from anything from $40 to $ 1’000 per image depending on agency (

McNamara supports this argument and recognizes the important economic placement the paparazzi industry has attained through ‘citizen photography’, supplying not only online websites, but also tabloid-magazines. The element of media ‘convergence’, i.e. the process of spreading information across several different media platforms, has enabled paparazzi to emerge as an “important force in the entertainment industry” (McNamara 2011:515). With such ability of agencies to manufacture and then distribute exclusive stories, “the globalization of paparazzi content has increasing ramifications for new forms of information-based entertainment” (McNamara 2011:515). Although this is the case, McNamara also recognizes that, “‘old media’”, i.e. “printed tabloid newspapers such as the UK’s The Sun, or the American magazines People and US Weekly are still the biggest buyers of paparazzi pictures”, and their tremendously high circulation numbers prove to be a clear “testament to the commercial power of such images” (Flew 2008, cited in McNamara 2011:517). With US Weekly stating an annual circulation of around 58’000’000 and People Magazine an annual circulation of around 170’850’000, both possessing similar numbers of issues per year, (US Weekly, 49, People Magazine, 51), Flew’s statement gains credibility (

The technological shift has changed paparazzi photography from a street based job, to a heavily technology-based industry. This can be seen in the strategy applied by paparazzi agencies to deploy their influence online as the industry has developed and “expanded from being content providers for old media such as newspapers and TV, to become media destinations in their own right (McNamara 2011:517). A good example of this would be ‘X17’ or ‘ and ‘Splashnews’ which are creating “sister websites that are not only inter-active but are also updated daily”(McNamara 2011:518). Further agencies like ‘INF Daily’, ‘Buzzphoto’ and ‘TMZ’, had already been created with this contemporary model already in place (McNamara 2011:518). “Their main focus lies on entertainment news and gossip” (McNamara 2011:518). This being the case, we can now relate the notion of paparazzi working ‘for’ celebrities, as mentioned in the previous chapter on celebrity endorsement, highlighted by actor and actress Ben Affleck’s and Jennifer Garner’s “toting with white coffee cups with the green logo”, has been speculated to be a deliberate ‘undercover’ celebrity endorsement for Starbucks, captured by paparazzi (see Appendix 4).

The new economic success of these new media platforms focusing their work on celebrity and gossip, are due to the ‘lucrative aspects’ of online advertisements. “By contrast, advertising on the web is seen as a potentially lucrative opportunity. Recent debate about successful social networking sites (in particular Twitter, Myspace and Facebook) has highlighted the different monetization strategies of large commercial, and smaller, more fan-based, DIY entertainment sites, specifically the comparative processes of straight web advertising versus a more direct ‘paying to play’ model” (McNamara 2011:519). Agencies are essentially receiving images without having to do the ‘dirty work’ and are making profit, through non-paparazzi, i.e. fans, taking the concept of celebrity news into their own hands.

This exposes another change to the paparazzi industry caused by technological advances: the ability of fans to become paparazzi themselves. While Facebook and Twitter function on the same principle, Twitter is more useful in exposing the increasing journalistic opportunities for fans and audiences. As twitter is a simple ‘word update’ system, i.e. photos cannot uploaded, everyone’s Twitter page is in the same format (whereas Facebook enables you to personalize your profile, in design or with the upload of professional photos). Hence, Twitter is arguably ‘blurring’ the boundaries between celebrity and fan, as anyone can follow anyone on Twitter, and hence ‘follow’ or ‘stalk’ them. Whereas paparazzi used to have ‘exclusive element’ in the past, i.e. fans would only be able to receive ‘more’ or ‘unofficial’ information on stars only from paparazzi journalists, contemporary social communication devices have enabled everyone to retrieve information by simply accessing the web, i.e. arguably turning everyone into paparazzi. This again relates to the notion of celebrities becoming an “associative reference group”, i.e. an associative group of people which seem to have an ‘attainable’ status. Additionally, contemporary social communication devices paired with the relatively easily accessible digital technology such as cameras and smartphones, it has become much cheaper for fans to engage in paparazzi activity, which also arguably raises its appeal. Furthermore, the increasing desire of fans and general audiences to become stars, as can be observed in casting shows such as X-Factor, further make the status of a celebrity, seem more or less easily attainable, which further blurs the boundaries between the ‘fan’ and ‘celebrity’.

Another way in which paparazzi culture is changing and further exacerbated it through the steady increase in online celebrity ‘gossip’ blogs. “, and are known as ‘extremely lucky, well-trafficked’ A-list blogs (Thompson, 2006), but there are many more that are not commercially successful, such as, and” (McNamara 2011:524). The full number of online celebrity websites is uncertain, as their number is steadily increasing. McNamara further recognizes that the success or failure of a blog is viral, “driven by online word-of-mouth. It is argued that ‘the top 15 percent of blogs, based on Technorati’s ranking, make 90 percent of the money’ (Walker Rettberg, 2008: 131), which is why it is so important that successful blogs use up-to-the-minute paparazzi pictures” (McNamara 2011:524).

This ‘new breed’ of citizen photographers, ultimately has another vital consequence: the creation of ‘celebrities’ through the reporting of in reality ‘unimportant’ or ‘insignificant’ individuals, who then, through acquiring media attention, gradually attain the status of what Monaco (1978) would define as a “quasar” or “accidental celebrity”, which then through further development of their ‘public persona’ according to Marshall (1997), attain the status of “star” (Monaco 1978, cited in Turner 2004:21). As Cashmore recognizes, the period where individuals became famous through making movies, producing hit-records or even writing best selling books has approached an end (Cashmore 2006:445). Cashmore argues that the age of contemporary celebrity commenced with Madonna, as she arguably changed or redined the concept of ‘fame’. “Being famous was no longer sufficient: to be a celebrity, you had to strip yourself, make consumers privy to as many aspects of your life as you as you dare.” (Cashmore 2006:6) Cashmore supports the view that celebrities no longer had to impress fans simply by their talent, but also raise their interest by exposing as much private life as they would ‘dare’. Matrix (2006) supports this, and asserts that in the case of Hollywood actors, the emergence of science fiction films in the 1970’s marked the beginning of actors gradually loosing their skill, as less was required of them, not only to stay on screen, but also to remain within the public eye (Matrix 2006:208).

Richard Dyer (1986) concurs with Cashmore’s view, and makes clear that the media’s output generally works to ‘fragment’ the celebrity, expressing him or her “in a series of disconnected looks; but in practice it works to confirm that beneath all these different looks there is an irreducible core that gives all those looks unity… This coherent continuousness within becomes what the star ‘really’s is” (Dyer 1986:2, 8-11, cited in Kitch 2000:175). This relates back to the notion discussed in previous chapter, about the importance of audiences of experiencing the possible ‘illusion’ of getting to know the ‘real’ celebrity. In that sense, the paprazzi industry therefore seems to be ‘working with’ the celebrity, whilst not working the in the celebrity’s best interest, yet rather following the notion of ‘any news, is good news’.

Whilst Emmanuel Levy asserts that stars in order to remain in the public eye, whilst possessing essential attributes such as a good physical appearance and possible youth, Hollywood movie stars and actors in specific are reliant on their acting skills more than anything in order to remain popular (Gorin & Dubied, 2011:604). Although this is the case, he continues to explore that although acting talent is “more or less a necessity”, “screen players must embody clearly defined images and project timely statements… Popular stars in American film history may not have been particularly attractive or talented, but they projected sociological statements which incorporated dominant values” (1990: 258, cited in Gorin & Dubied 2011:604).

Levy therefore explores the fact that simply embodying popular themes and contemporary trends can aid embedding the star to remain popular within the public eye, and shape his public persona positively. Therefore, it is too far fetched to argue that paparazzi culture is the only component that enables stars and individuals, who have recently attained public fame, to prevail under the public eye. Yet if movie stars can secure a positive public persona through acting out and embodying popular contemporary trends as well societal changes in their roles on screen, it may not be too far fetched to assume that paparazzi culture is achieving quite a similar effects using their public influence in order to affect a celebrity’s public persona in a similar fashion. The paparazzi industry could therefore be argued to adjust to popular trends, or even to set trends; who is ‘in’, who is ‘out, which celebrity has gained weight, which has lost weight, who got divorced and who got married.





2.3 – Celebrity ‘stalking’: Princess Diana


Having discussed the appeal and hence the reason for the existence of paparazzi in addition to their changing nature, we will now make reference to the notion of celebrity ‘stalking’, a consequence of contemporary paparazzi culture and also of the contemporary relationship of paparazzi and celebrity culture. This section will make use of Princess Diana as a case study.

Caroline Walters, also an interviewee confirms this notion, and asserts that she would associate paparazzi photographers with the aim to “stalk celebrities”, but at the same is also confirming that “they’re getting paid a fair amount as far as I have heard, so there is definitely an incentive” (Caroline Walters, 23). This is a valuable observation, as although Caroline recognizes the concept of paparazzi culture as rather negative, associating it with stalking, she also recognizes the great ‘incentive’ and hence demand for such photos.

When considering the appeal of paparazzi culture as a way of ‘getting to know’ the star as discussed in the previous sections, the concept ‘celebrity stalking’ can only be seen as a natural consequence, in addition to considering that the contemporary format of paparazzi is furthermore encouraging audiences to ’post’ their celebrity images online. Therefore we can view the concept of celebrity ‘stalking’ as a consequence of contemporary celebrity culture, paired with the influence of the modern concept of paparazzi culture.  Stalking has previously been defined as “the willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety” (Meloy & Gothard, 1995, p. 258, cited in McCutcheon 2006). Although this definition may at first sight not directly apply to the ‘stalking’ of celebrities by paparazzi, it is worrying how at further inspection that celebrities are often endangered through paparazzi actions. Dr. Robert Smith’ statement in his interview shows his growing concern for the concept as he feels that “this culture that our new generations are enrolling in worries me. The notion of paparazzi following celebrities really sends out the wrong messages in my opinion, and I generally think that particular element of the media should be changed” (Robert Smith, 51).

In the August of 2005, ‘It-Girl’ Lindsay Lohan drove her Mercedes into a “collision with a pursuant minivan, driven by a photographer who is subsequently charged with assault with a deadly weapon – the vehicle.” The photographer was later set free, although this case encouraged Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to legislate celebrities to collect large damage awards from paparazzi who harass them” (Cashmore 2006:247). Furthermore the case of actress Scarlet Johansson possibly outweighs this case in gravity, as in the August of 2005 whilst leaving her Hollywood home for Disneyland and escaping from paparazzi, she bumped into a Daihatsu carrying a mother and her daughter, “to whom she later apologizes (Cashmore 2006). Johansson’s agent tells the Los Angeles Times: ‘At least two or three of those paparazzi had been camping outside her house for five days… she’s left Los Angeles. You can’t deal with it anymore’” (Cashmore 2006: 247).

As mentioned before the notion of celebrity stalking can be seen as a natural consequence of a society that celebrates and reports ‘fame’ in the manner it is currently executed. As Wykes (2000) makes clear, “the notion of celebrity ‘stalkers’ can be seen as one example of the effects of the currently existing system of celebrities. The constant appearance in the news, has arguably made their existence existential to certain individuals, and validates their importance” (Wykes 2000:171). As fans are continuously encouraged to view ‘celebrities’ or individuals in the public eye as ‘role models’ and ‘idols’, the natural consequence is that fans will attach themselves strongly to their ‘hero’, which arguably encouraging the notion of celebrity stalking. As McCutcheon et al. (2006) asserts, “fans who strongly idealize their favorite celebrity are more likely to stalk them.” Furthermore, McCutcheon in partnership with other colleagues have developed an ‘absorption-addiction’ model in order to explain celebtrity worship. The model highlights that most fans will not go beyond the “intial stage” of admiring the celebrity for entertainment purposes, until in some cases, individuals will “facilitate absorption” with a celebrity in order to establish their own identity, and therefore causing a possible “addiction” to the celebrity (McCutcheon et al. 2002:1476). Furthermore, such behavior can cause obsessive and compulsive behavior. “People who hold such beliefs appear to be obsessed with and compulsive about their favourite celebrity”, as can be observed in the murder of BBC television presenter Jil Dando in 1999 (McCutcheon 2002). Her murder had accessed a web directory to find out her address, and had then killed her. “The unknown person accessed the site – – in November 1998. Miss Dando was murdered five months later” ( Through the often-ruthless behavior of paparazzi, audiences and fans are arguably encouraged to do the same, which can be seen as another trigger for the development of ‘citizen paparazzi’. This also relates back to the development of new ‘digital technologies’, enabling fans and paparazzi to arguably ‘stalk’ more ‘efficiently’.

The Internet enables viewers and fans to continuously stay updated on celebrity news. Although this is the case, the ‘double edged sword’ of the matter must not be left unnoticed, as the new technology in form of blogs and online social networks are also certainly in the interest of celebrities, as they are able directly communicate and interact with fans and audiences, creating a seemingly more ‘personal’ bond, without the intervention PR agents and managers. That being the case, the ‘glorification’ of celebrities and their ‘idealisation’ by consumers fans, which Marshall has described as the “celebration of the biggest achievement of democratic capitalism”, has certainly reared its ugly head, as through the actions of paparazzi, the notion of ‘celebrity stalking’ has become a matter of serious concern. As Wykes 2007 makes clear, “celebrities have resorted to the courts and called for the introduction of privacy legislation to prevent paparazzi photographers ‘stalking’ them and selling sometimes unflattering images to the media” (Wykes 2007:171).

Although Meloy & Sheridan (2008) state that celebrity stalking accounts for the smallest percentage of all reported stalking cases, the severity of those individual cases leading to either a murder or injury of a celebrity should not be left unnoticed (Meloy & Sheridan 2008). Examples of celebrities who were murdered, victims of attempted murder, or victims of violence acted out towards such as John Lennon (1980), Eddie Waitkus (1949), Theresa Saldana (1982), Rebecca Schaeffer (1989), Steffi Graf (1993) Michael Landon (1988), Jodie Foster (1981), David Letterman (1998) and Michael Douglas (2004), only begin to ‘touch’ a very long list (Meloy & Sheridan 2008:90-92).

The constant coverage of celebrities has had the inevitable effect of fans becoming ‘obssessed’ with their favorite ‘idols’ or stars. As Wykes (2007) asserts, ‘those who are in the public eye face perhaps the most extreme form of attack because they are usually among the 5 per cent of victims whose stalkers are strangers to them’” (Wykes 2007:160). In addition to that, the consequential following of celebrities by not only paparazzi but also fans, additionally bears a certain element of newsworthiness, as it exposes almost ‘tragic’ and ‘addictive’ obsession that grips individuals. Wykes supports this view and states, “celebrity stalking has shown to contain a particular element of newsworthiness” (Wykes 2000:171). This can be highlighted by the case of Princess Diana, and her constant observation by the tabloid presses leading up to her tragic death on Sunday the 31st of August 1997 (Walter 1999:3). Although many celebrities such as the Princess of Wales, the Spice Girls, Diana and Madonna certainly all suffered one way or another “from the attention of obsessive fans and, in Diana’s case, obsessive paparazzi were not only characterized as ‘stalkers’ following the oratory by her brother, Earl Spencer at her funeral, but were also said to have been the cause of her death, due to the car chase” (Walter 1999:11). The interesting aspect to note about Princess Diana’s case is the ‘battle’ between the tabloid presses and the official press over Diana’s public ‘image’ (Lewis 2002). As Lewis asserts, whilst providing an excellent scapegoat for public blame, “the paparazzi refused to comply with Diana’s managed image manufacture” (Lewis 2002:11).

Diana’s public image, had varied from a charitable, gracious noble, to the ‘mysterious’ character. The tabloid and therefore paparazzi press, had had the effect of providing the public with “unofficial” photos of Diana’s life for their the intrigue and pleasure (Lewis 2002:11). Diana’s intrigue of course, originated from the masses’ desire to know more about the ‘ordinary’ girl that became a princess. The stories surrounding her death had the consequence that paparazzi were blamed for Diana’s accident, as she the car chase was said to have commenced with paparazzi following Diana on motorcycles. The interesting factor is that audiences do not seem to care a great deal about paparazzi interaction with celebrities even if it harmful to the celebrity and in fact often engage themselves in paparazzi photography. It is only when paparazzi ‘stalking’ is blamed for a celebrity death, such as in Princess Diana’s case, that audiences become more aware of the impact of paparazzi on celebrities’ lives. As McNamara highlights, “shortly after paparazzi were blamed for contributing to the death of Princess Diana, British tabloids The Sun and the Mirror recorded their lowest sales figures since 1962, undoubtedly the manifestation of the public backlash against the paparazzi (Griffiths, 1997, cited in McNamara:518). The relationship between paparazzi –and celebrity culture has therefore made audiences dependant on media reactions to an event. Lewis concurs with this, and asserts, “our ability to make sense of the world we live in is now absolutely dependant, on our relationship with the media” (Lewis 2002:11-12). From this we can draw on the intricate relationship between the tabloid media, celebrities and the increased level of ‘stalking’ that is not only accepted, but seemingly encouraged, as audiences are fascinated by the possible ‘dirty, ‘secretive’, ‘mysterious’, ‘strange’ and exciting private life of celebrities.

The notion of celebrities becoming “associative reference groups” is yet again applicable, a notion that is made possible not only by celebrity endorsement, but also by paparazzi culture. As Meloy (1998) questions the necessity of such actions carried out paparazzi, taking “photographs of her and her fatally injured companions in the severely damaged Mercedes Benz S280” (Meloy 1998:1). As Meloy continues, such photographers have been referred to “stalkerazzi: tenacious pursuers seeking proximity to a person who has no desire, at least some of the time, to be photographed” (Meloy 1998:1). He further identifies the linked relationship; the paparazzi who is convinced that he is simply doing his job due to the clear demand of such information by the masses, and audiences whose obsession is further spurred by such imagery provided by paparazzi. Meloy continues to assert, that the consequence of selling images for a high price to the tabloid press, with a clear purpose of of visually communicating to the public the private moments of a celebrity life that can only be linked to in fantasy: “If I can see her privately, perhaps I can come to know her intimately, to be with her in fantasy, and to perhaps be more like her. Then she may know me” (Melloy 1998:1).



Conclusion: A ‘fuelled machine’

Concluding from the previous chapters, it is clearly easy to assume that the paparazzi industry and celebrity culture are to be seen as two separate entities, whilst paparazzi culture appears to be a ‘bi-product’ of the contemporary manner in which ‘fame’ is celebrated and responded to. A concept that is profit-driven, exploitive and culturally significant, as it has arguably changed the way we as a society view celebrities and the general concept of ‘fame’. More importantly, the purpose of this paper has been to inform the reader of the inter-linked relationship between the concepts of celebrity and paparazzi, making use of the ‘glorification’ of celebrities and the notion of fandom, in order to embed a system that allows for such exploitation to take place, and shift public awareness from ‘newsworthy’ new, to arguably ‘unworthy’ news.

It is interesting to note, that for most celebrities, paparazzi attention may appear as intolerable, tedious and annoying. Although this is the case, in some cases, paparazzi attention is sometimes a necessity in order for the individuals to be able to secure a safe position within the public eye. This includes face-to-face performances and transmitted performances, as well as recognizing that an occasional paparazzi snapshot could be essential to keeping the star within the public eye. The constant interplay between paparazzi and celebrity has almost become a ‘fueled machine’. Shots of celebrities in a certain location, such as their home, a holiday or on a shoot, displays a way of ‘mapping’ or ‘tracking’ celebrities.

The paparazzi machine and the  ‘Star System’ therefore present an interlinked working ‘machine’ or industry. Either is dependant on the other, which therefore also displays the fact that one arguably profits from the other and vise versa. Celebrities, at the same time as wanting an element of privacy to be constant in their lives, need the often ‘unwanted’ media attention accumulated by paparazzi in combination with several other news media, in order to sustain a constantly present ‘public persona’, to give their presence in the media validation, as well as securing a fan-base. As mentioned before, social communication networks and digital technologies have fundamentally changed the relationship between fans and celebrities. In the case of Twitter, it actually enables a kind of celebrity ‘tracking’, i.e. finding out the whereabouts and actions of each celebrity. Therefore, to say that paparazzi attention is purely unwanted by the ‘victims’ of constantly pestering photographers, the celebrities, would be too easy a statement to make. One has to consider the interlinked bond, paparazzi agencies and celebrities and understand the existing double-edged sword of ‘fame’.

It has to be noted that although there is friction between the ‘old-fashioned’ generation of paparazzi and the newcomers, as newcomers often sell their snapshots and images at much lower prices than they arguable should be, therefore ‘depressing’ prices for the rest of the industry. Although this is the case, this just described ‘friction’ presents itself as a form of competition, therefore spurring motivation in the paparazzi industry and therefore further endorsing the chasing of celebrities: hence further validating its apparent ‘importance’.

The motto ‘any news is good news’ does seem to apply to a vast majority of individuals residing in the ‘celebrity status’. Katie Price, also known as her pseudonym ‘Jordan’, has had a history of seemingly negative press, whether it was concerning her love life at the time or her wish to undergo breast augmentation procedures. Although such unimportant yet personal press to ruin the individual’s public persona, the fact that it is being reported, publicly debated and announced, ‘validates’ its newsworthiness and would therefore only be naturally be perceived as news. The arguments proposed by Marcuse and Adorno, who perceive audiences to be entirely passive, has somewhat become outdated. However, contemporary society throws reason to believe that audiences have increasingly become passive viewers. The concept of paparazzi news is based on the assumption that audiences want to see the other side of the spectrum, i.e. not only the glamorous, but also the sometimes ‘-crude’ reality, and often delicate, intricate or even gross life details. It is the notion that ‘heroes’ as previously discussed, are in reality not as ‘perfect’ as we originally assumed. The fascination that lies with celebrities stems from the fundamental ‘admiration’ whether this may be for mere entertainment purposes, the tremendous celebrity success or even for their appearance, portrayed by tabloid magazines and the general media in addition to celebrity endorsement. That being said, as we have established, the ‘backstage’ view on celebrities as well as the ‘frontstage’ view, i.e. to some extent connecting with the celebrity even if that means just viewing him as an ‘ordinary’ member of society, is the key to the appeal of both: celebrity- and paparazzi culture for providing that information.

Having begun to explore the inter-linked relationship between paparazzi agencies and celebrity culture, one can almost say that they could be called ‘mutually effective’, i.e. if one is affected by a change, the other will too. This can be shown by the fact if ‘celebrity culture’ was not existent in the way that is today, i.e. not being admired by their audiences and not seen as the pinnacle of society; paparazzi agencies would not make the life of celebrity and gossip their main focus. This is due to the fact that audiences would not be interested in the continuous updates on the life of their celebrity idols; hence all interest in their existence would disseminate or decrease immensely. Essential to the existence of paparazzi culture: the photograph. Enabled by the technology of our time, paparazzi have opened the doors into a world, which ‘fascinates’, as well as horrifies, interests, as well as bores, excites, as well as repulses. It is sometimes a ‘welcome distraction’, a distant reassurance that everybody, celebrity or not, has problems, whilst at the same time, offering a ‘distraction’ that has shifted society into a never-ending spiral which places importance on the intricate life details of, as Cashmore asserts, “people we have never met, and most likely will never meet”.

Whilst celebrities are a necessity in contemporary life, the nature of their modern existence, influenced by paparazzi culture has somewhat misguided their ‘aim’. With audiences taking the roles paparazzi ‘journalists’ or ‘stalkers’ themselves, i.e. through Twitter and the Internet in general, the boundaries between the ‘celebrity’ and the ‘fan’ are visibly being torn down. Celebrities gives us strive, aims, ambitions: “Someday I want to be like him”. With the increase of paparazzi culture, i.e. an increasing number of fans being able to check up on all the ‘dirty’ and ‘intimate’ news of their celebrities, it is the more discouraging to see that audiences are more interested in the social critique of such individuals, being ‘distracted’ from their own personal lives, and are increasingly focused on the mischief in the celebrity world, in some cases actively encouraging it. Although this is the case, the ‘glorification’ of celebrities is certainly an element of society that does not necessarily need encouraging.




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