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Reality TV and the Fame Cycle


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presented at Celebrity Studies conference 2014

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Reality TV and the Fame Cycle

  1. 1. Ruth A. Deller @ruthdeller
  2. 2. • Talent and/or skill development (e.g. Dancing with the Stars, Maestro, Strictly Come Dancing, Masterchef) • Fly on the wall (e.g. The Osbournes, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Kerry Katona: Crazy in Love) • Lifestyle experiment or cultural 'journey' (e.g. Famous, Rich and Homeless, Paddy and Sally, Celebrity Wife Swap) • Charity specials (e.g. Let's Dance, Comic Relief Does Fame Academy, Celebrity Bake-Off) • Hybrid formats (e.g. I'm a Celebrity..., Celebrity Big Brother) • Celebrities and the 'public' (e.g. Jade's PA, Paris Hilton's BFF, Celebrity Bachelor, BB's Celebrity Takeover)
  3. 3. Appeal of celebrity reality • 'With normal Big Brother we're making ordinary people extraordinary. With this, we're making famous people very, very ordinary' (Phil Edgar Jones cited in Biressi and Nunn, 2005: 147). • A deconstruction of the celebrity facade? (Holmes, 2006) • An insight into the 'real' person? (Holderman 2007, Payne 2009) • A 'level' playing field? (Bonner 2013)
  4. 4. 'It is surely in part the notion of celebrity as a 'risky lottery' that fosters interest in the time-line of fame: we only need think of the magazine/television appetite for featuring articles and programmes on celebrities before or after 'they were famous'. While these suggest different perspectives on and investments in celebrity, interest partly emerges here from tracking a trajectory through the process of fame, and its temporal impact on the physical, cultural and economic fortunes of the self... the media value of celebrity suggests that the 'ordinary' world must be escaped from, although it is paradoxically by making a claim to the 'ordinary' that this very process occurs' (Holmes 2006: 47-48)
  5. 5. Promotional celebrity 'Proper' celebrity (Re)- Purposed celebrity Post- celebrity Pre- celebrity Proto- celebrity The fame cycle
  6. 6. Pre-celebrity • Not famous: 'ordinary' people. • Celetoids - Rojek (2001) - attributed fame • Route to fame via 'regular' reality or factual television shows (e.g. X Factor, Big Brother, Wife Swap, TOWIE) • May be part of celeb/ordinary people reality TV (e.g. Chantelle Houghton in Celebrity Big Brother; Celebrity Bachelor contestants, Jade's PA entrants etc) • Potential to extend fame through further reality television. • Popular/well-known reality TV stars who progress through 'fame cycle' useful for celebrity reality shows - not only are they free and affordable, they understand the 'games' of RTV and how to make programmes watchable.
  7. 7. Proto-celebrity • Well-known in a specialist or niche field (e.g. glamour models, minority sports stars, professional dancers) • Fame through association (e.g. spouse, parent/child, partner of a celebrity) - ascribed fame (Rojek 2001). Help audiences speculate on the 'real' X. • Small amount of fame/renown through other reality TV, news events or other media (e.g. Chris Crocker, Luisa Zissman) – prolonging celebrity. • May be celebrities in their home country trying to boost brand globally (e.g. Heidi and Spencer)
  8. 8. Proto-celebrity • Celebrity reality TV about brand boosting and brand extension: reaching a wider audience, prolonging initial 15 minutes of fame. • 'Who are they? Why have they been cast?' - they raise questions for audience.
  9. 9. Promotional celebrity • Using fame to promote another brand or programme - or their own brand/outputs. • Works well with talent/skill-oriented shows (e.g. Masterchef, Strictly) as participants shown to also have 'day job' and thus strong work ethic. (Bonner 2013) • Stars often known, but maybe not to everyone (e.g. Hollyoaks actors) • '[R]eality-talent shows enable in-house promotions to be seen at a time when much viewing is done in modes which encourage the excision of ads and promotion slots. In this they parallel the increase in product placement... the products ‘placed’ within the programmes are the other sites of the contestants' celebrity... Celebrities' own brands are enhanced, too.' (Bonner 2013: 170)
  10. 10. 'Proper' celebrity • Not necessarily just “A-list”, but those who are well-known and successful within their field. • Does not need to participate - already successful and well-known. • May take a role as a presenter, mentor or judge (on either celebrity or 'civilian' reality shows). • May use reality TV (or its celeb equivalent) as a promo vehicle through being a guest performer or commentator. • Or may simply be 'too big' for reality TV altogether. • Likewise - reality TV doesn't really need them - what is the interesting story if someone is a success? • Kim Kardashian possible exception here - but her fame largely came through association with other celebs including reality TV (The Simple Life).
  11. 11. 'Proper' celebrity • Some may use carefully-managed 'fly-on-the-wall' reality as promo (e.g. Miley: The Movement) • [In I'm a Celebrity] 'what apparently unites the participants, as the Executive Producer claims, is that that they are not 'really really famous' people. This, he explains, wouldn't work because: 'While casting is crucial, part of the reason [we select the celebrities for the programme] is that ... there's always a ... question mark about why they're famous. It gives that slight edge to it - just the way they all compete with each other for the camera. Here, the claim is that I'm a Celebrity revels in the decline of a merited claim to fame, which is apparently integral to the entire dynamic of the show'. (Holmes 2006: 48)
  12. 12. (Re)Purposed Celebrity • Appearance has a 'purpose' to it. • Learning a new skill or talent - possibility for brand extension or change of career direction (e.g. Maestro, Celebrity Masterchef). • For some, raising awareness of politics or causes as motivation – but is real purpose to be a (liked) celebrity? • Reputation and image management as part of rehabilitative strategy (e.g. Jim Davidson, Michael Barrymore). • 'I never expected it to come out through Dancing With the Stars. You clear 21 million sq. meters of landmine-filled land and you fitted 400,000 people with limbs and [people] go on to vilify you. You do two-and-a-half to three dances and suddenly you're amazing. It's crazy!' (Heather Mills, cited in Quinlan and Bates 2008: 69).
  13. 13. (Re)Purposed Celebrity • 'On one hand, such programming aims to uncover extra levels of extraordinary talent among existing television personalities, often as a cross-promotional device for the same network, all the while reinforcing audience empathy with the stars' ordinary human struggles to overcome new challenges. On the other hand, audiences are given additional opportunities for what Jeffrey Sconce (2004, 453) calls 'celebrity schadenfreude', in which we get to spectate as minor stars of questionable talent make fools of themselves, disproving any claim to extraordinary status'. (Payne 2009: 297)
  14. 14. Post-Celebrity • Fame has waned - 'has-beens'. • Reality television as vehicle to relaunch fame and re-enter 'special place' (Holmes 2006). • RTV as critique on fame (e.g. The Big Reunion). • Part of appeal - strong story potential: why are they no longer famous? Do they still have 'it'? What happens after fame? • Post-celebrity > Pre-celebrity. Some stars fame has waned so much they enter 'civilian' reality not 'celebrity' (e.g. Pauline, Big Brother; Cleo, The Voice UK)
  15. 15. When it works...
  16. 16. When it doesn't...
  17. 17. Perpetual reality stars... Brigitte Nielsen: The Mole, The Surreal Life, Big Brother VIP (Denmark), Celebrity Big Brother (UK), Killing Brigitte Nielsen, Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Makeover, La Ferme Célébrités, Let's Dance, Come Dine With Me, Aus alt mach neu – Brigitte Nielsen in der Promi-Beauty-Klinik, Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus!, Maestro (Denmark), Promi-Hochzeitsplanern... Goldie: Celebrity Big Brother (UK), The Games, Maestro (UK), Classic Goldie, Goldie's Band, Strictly Come Dancing, Come Dine With Me... Amy Childs: The Only Way is Essex, Celebrity Big Brother (UK), It's All About Amy, Let's Dance for Sport Relief, The Bank Job, The Jump, Celebrity Wedding Planner...
  18. 18. The reality cycle? High-tier show Reality Judge or guest 'Civilian' show Low-tier show Mid-tier show Own reality show
  19. 19. Shows and status • Hill (2008): Viewers perceptions of ‘quality’ of reality shows – often connected to broadcaster and to show format/aims – e.g. educative vs 'sensational’ (See also Sconce 2004). • Shows that encourage 'work' can have a higher calibre than those that don't (Bonner 2013). • Broadcaster also important (e.g. ITV2 vs BBC Two).
  20. 20. Shows and status (Hill 2008)
  21. 21. The perfect blend?
  22. 22. The perfect blend?
  23. 23. The perfect blend? Debating degrees of fame on I’m a Celebrity (29 mins onward) and Celebrity Big Brother.
  24. 24. Promotional celebrity 'Proper' celebrity (Re)- Purposed celebrity Post- celebrity Pre- celebrity Proto- celebrity The fame cycle
  25. 25. Conclusion • Celebrity Reality TV as a way of testing a star's claim to fame. • Useful for different celebrities at different points in their career. • Can be a tool for profile boosting and prolonging celebrity, for promoting a cause, product or brand, for achieving a purpose or re- purposing one's fame, or for reviving fame that has dwindled. • Different shows, formats and channels work in different ways and can be beneficial to different celebrities. • RTV is not a guaranteed 'success' - people win through trying hard (Bonner 2013) and by being 'ordinary' (Holmes 2006). • Successful RTV shows need a diverse mix of cast from different fields at different points in the fame cycle.
  26. 26. • Biressi, A and Nunn, H (2004) 'The Especially Remarkable: Celebrity and Social Mobility in Reality TV', Mediactive 2: 44-58. • Biressi, A and Nunn, H (2005) Reality TV: Realism and Revelation, London: Wallflower. • Bonner, F. (2013), 'Celebrity, work and the reality-talent show: Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars', Celebrity Studies 4 (2): 169-181 • Braudy, Leo (1986) The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and its History, Oxford: Oxford University Press. • Cadwalladr, C. (2011), 'Goldie interview: the alchemist', The Observer, 30 January 2011, interview-the-alchemist, accessed December 2011 • Couldry, N (2004) 'Teaching us to Fake It: The Ritualized Norms of Television's "Reality" Games', in Murray, S and Ouellette, L (eds), Reality TV: Re-making Television Culture, New York: New York University Press, pp. 57-74. • Hill, A. (2005), Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television, London: Routledge. • Hill, A. (2008) Restyling factual TV : audiences and news, documentary and reality genres. London: Routledge. References
  27. 27. • Holmes, S (2006) 'It's a Jungle Out There!: The Game of Fame in Celebrity Reality TV'. In: Holmes, S and Redmond, S (eds) Framing Celebrity: New Directions in Celebrity Culture. London: Routledge, pp. 45-66 • Holderman, L. (2007), '"Ozzy worked for those bleeping doors with the crosses on them": The Osbournes as Social Class Narrative' in Holmes, S. and Redmond, S. (eds), Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader, London: Sage, 287-297. • McLean, C. (2011), 'What Happens When Boy Bands Grow Up' in The Observer, 24 July 2011, available: up • Palmer, G. (2005), 'The Undead: Life on the D-List', Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 2 (2): 37-53. • Payne, R. (2009) Dancing with the ordinary: Masculine celebrity performance on Australian TV, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 23:3, 295-306 • Quinlan, M.M. & Bates, B.R. (2008): 'Dances and Discourses of (Dis)Ability: Heather Mills's Embodiment of Disability on Dancing with the Stars', Text and Performance Quarterly, 28:1-2, 64-80. • Sconce, J. (2004). 'See you in hell Johnny Bravo!' In: S. Murray and L. Oullette, eds. Reality TV: remaking television culture. New York University Press, 251–267 References