Global Studio / Thesis

The Persona of the Star: The Global Idea of the American Movie Star

Working Title: The Persona of the Star: The Global Idea of the American Movie Star

Working Thesis Statement: The glamour that is fame and fortune is so unattainable for some many of us that we create an idea in our head of what it is like and many, especially in America, want it.

     Celebrity has always fascinated me. Actors and singers have become our idols. We seldom know them but we recognize them and, maybe it is human nature, but in that we feel like we know them. Every one has an idea what Madonna is like; we know what she sounds like, what she looks like, what wears, where she goes, what she eats – everything and then, we make assumptions. The glamour that is fame and fortune is so unattainable for some many of us that we create an idea in our head of what it is like and many, especially in America, want it. But what is fame? When everybody knows your name. People will say, “I love Madonna,” but they don’t because they do not know her. They would more aptly say, “I love Madonna’s music,” or “I love love her clothes.” They do not love Madonna, they love the idea of her life that they have created for her. Just as Timo said that no one is exempt from the fashion, no one is except of the idea of celebrity. In fact, the less they think about it, the more they have to create for themselves.

     As Ed Keller showed us “Blow Out,” to show the directors hand in the film, so I tend to look celebrity. Brian de Palma wanted fireworks going off as Jack’s girlfriend died, he wanted the scene to be dramatic and a bit ridiculous, so do some celebrities create their persona. Madonna has defined and refined who she wants us to believe she is and we absorb it so unconsciously that we do, we believe it. In the reality of the film, fireworks were going off when she dies and their orange light illuminated Jack’s face as he reacted to it. In our actual reality, Madonna is both the director and the actor showing us what she want to be and we can’t really help but believe it because all we see of Madonna is what she wants us to see and all the facts we have to create the idea of who Madonna is are fed to us by Madonna. Everyone know who Madonna is but no one knows who Madonna is. This also goes back to what Keller was saying about how an artist reinvents one self to change the way the world views him, Madonna is a drastic example of this.

     This idealized persona is more confused when it comes to actors. As an audience, we associate the face of the actor with the characters they play, and, understandably, find it hard to differentiate who that person really is. The thing is, we can’t really know. We don’t know them. We can’t sit down with him after the film to disassociate his face with the character. In an actor, we have face whose identity is constantly changing and, from what I have observed, people will frequently confuse actors with their characters. It is just human nature. People think that Johnny Depp is a rum-swigging, modern day pirate or that Olivia de Havilland was the sweetest thing since ice cream but he is not Jack Sparrow and she is not Melanie Wilkes. Films are America’s biggest exports. The ‘movie star’ is really an American invention. This glamourous idealized sector is what we give to the rest of the world. If the entertainment industry is one of Appadurai’s neighborhoods then, the American film industry is high society and government and we, the subjects, the viewers are localized that movie theater. With the advent of the internet, this idea of celebrity has become even more localized. The idea of celebrity has reached an all-time high when people all over the world and go on google, do some research and feel localized and connected to these people.

     Previously in my work, I concentrated much on the celebrity and my attraction to it. Being a theater geek and finding that the people I most idolize are the ones I had the most access to, I photographed the broadway stage door. The performers see me and often think nothing of me. They have forgotten my face, I am no one, I am the crowd. Like the crowd, I will never forget being six inches away from Bernadette Peters. Bernadette Peters, on the other hand, forgot about me by the time her town car door closed. It is ridiculously exciting and yet undeniably humbling. I was reduced to a giddy fan girl. Maybe it’s the barricades we have to stand behind or the anticipation but there is such a heightened sense of excitement and for what? I signed piece of paper?

     This semester, I am trying to get away from glamour and lights and turn my lens to a quieter side, a sort of attempt to break the spell that the fame mentality has cast over us. I want to get to the nuts and bolts of the romantic idea of the theater and the allure of the performer.  

Emma Pratte

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4 thoughts on “The Persona of the Star: The Global Idea of the American Movie Star

  1. Your thesis and the statement sounds very interesting and very thought worthy. I also like how you are trying to approach your past ideas from a different view. However, I am a bit confused with your last statement. Isn’t it contradictory to say that you are trying to get away from the glamorous fame of the celebrities and then to get into nuts and bolts of the allure of the performer?

  2. This is a great topic and really relates to the fetishism of consumers. Celebrity has created a lifestyle that average people feel they deserve or desire. You did a nice job of connecting this idea to topics in class will be interesting to see how you relate it to your studio work.

  3. You have a very intriguing topic and I think you have made some great connections to our topics discussed in class. I have a concern though, in the beginning of your thesis you discuss the idea of celebrities, then later go on to talk specifically about Madonna. Is your thesis about the idea of celebrities and their life of fame and fortune? Or is it about a specific celebrity, Madonna? I would suggest to use her in some examples but try not to be to specific, keep it more on a general basis since your thesis is focusing on the fame of celebrities in general. How do you intend on focusing more on the performer as an artist?

  4. I love your topic, and I would love to see how it will pan out through out the semester. I think you should be maybe less specific in details of information in terms of your thesis, and push a bit more on the conceptual aspect of it? It is really interesting to see how you relate your studio work so closely to what we are covering in class.

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