Review: Understanding Media: Inside Celebrity

Among the many courses offered by the United Kingdom’s only university dedicated to distance learning,Guest Posting Open University, are those entitled Understanding of the Media. The first of the media series is devoted to the study of the celebrity, wherein the textbook that goes along with the course is Understanding Media: Inside Celebrity.

Focusing on the celebrity, the textbook exposes how this phenomenon plays a vital role in the domination of contemporary media. Four elements central to an understanding of the subject matter: history, texts, production and audiences are examined in detail in order to fully grasp how and why the celebrity plays a pivotal role in our modern cultural life.

Divided into 4 chapters, the primary focus of the book examines why individuals do not become celebrities as a result of their seductive or innately alluring or magnetic qualities, but rather as pointed out in the introduction, “celebrity is a resource created and deployed by a range of often interlocking media.” It is this media such as the press, films, television that construct and transmit an image or persona that represents the celebrity.

Logically structured, the book begins with the development of a critical engagement of the concept of the celebrity culture as being something unique, wherein two perspectives are presented illustrating their strengths and weaknesses. The second chapter Looking for the latest buzz? discusses the concept of text as a means of understanding media in relation to the celebrity and why texts deserve consideration. The third chapter involves itself with the internal procedures and organizational structures of the institutions that make up the media promoting the individual celebrities. The last chapter concentrates on the audience’s fantasies and pleasures of movie-goers, magazine readers and other media audiences.

Mingled with the authors’ analysis of the celebrity and its relationship to the media are earnest and worthy scholarship pertaining to such topics as the media’s role in the celebritisation of politics, the explicit and implicit meanings of text, and the role of audiences as they interpret celebrity texts.

This timely study is an important contribution in grasping the full implications of a phenomenon that is sometimes difficult to fully comprehend and where personalities as Madonna refuse to fade silently into the night without making some kind of a mark on our culture. Many readers will definitely come away with a heightened understanding of a subject that is surely not trivial, as some would have us believe. An added plus are the carefully designed student activities as well as illustrated case studies inserted into each chapter that enhances the learning experience.