The Identity of a Celebrity in Contemporary Society

This post was written by a student in Susan Schuyler’s Narrative, Rhetoric, and Identity class at Stanford University. Each student in this class will complete a research-based argument related to the course topic.

How is a celebrity defined and generated in this modern society? Without doubt, the making of a celebrity in this generation has become more complex than before. Take the example of Susan Boyle. When she first stepped onto the stages of Britain’s Got Talent, the first impression of the audience and even the judges was negative and pessimistic. She also humiliated herself when she responded puzzlingly to the judges’ simple questions about her roots. But, once she started hitting the first note of “I Dreamed a Dreamed”, she blew everyone away. Judge Amanda Holden remarked upon the audience’s initially cynical attitude and called Susan’s performance the “biggest wake-up call ever”.

My research-based argument will specifically look at American Idol to analyze the qualities contestants must possess for their blockbuster success in the music industry. As Simon Cowell said in his interview with CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper, he and his business partners tried to sell American Idol as “the great American dream, which is somebody who could be a cocktail waitress one minute, within 16 weeks could become the most famous person in America”.

The sources that I explore might agree on certain aspects of what makes a celebrity in American Idol, but they might look at different angles based on the same perspective. For example, a scholarly source I am using, “American Idolatry”, utilises examples of successful AI auditionees such as Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson to convey the importance of originality and personality.  On the other hand, another article, “The Celebration of Failure in American Idol”, explores the significance of originality and character through failed auditionees such as William Hung.  I will also be conducting primary research to further enhance the viability and feasibility of my claims.

I am an avid fan of American Idol and I am really happy to have chosen a topic that I am really interested in, that is the identity of a celebrity in modern society. So, who are your favourite celebrities in this contemporary society? What characteristics of these celebrities do you value? How has the identity of a ‘celebrity’ in this modern society transformed from before? What role does ethnicity, personality and the American dream play in the making of these celebrities?

-Pyat Myat Kaung (Larry Win), Stanford University

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This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Stanford-CCNY, Fall 2010: Humanities, Identity, and Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

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