Voyou Désœuvré

Steven Shaviro writes about post-celebrity celebrity while NBC is running trailers for the new American version of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here (regrettably, due to the intervention of the courts, not starring Rod Blagojevich). The arrival of this show from the UK disappoints me a little; American TV, with the respectful celebrity reporting of Entertainment Tonight and the always-suited late-night talk show hosts, seemed like the last redoubt of the aura of celebrity, which the celebrity reality genre decisively does away with.

The image of non-glamor is a great deal of work. It’s not a surprise that the celebrity reality genre arrived in the UK so much earlier than in the US; as with so much else (Thatcher, financialization), the UK exhibits the tendencies of late capitalism in a purer form, with celebrity having been abolished over there a long time ago. Instead, there’s a continuum of decreasing glamor from the soap, to Heat, to Nuts, to the glamor model (the inclusion of the term “glamor” in the name being, of course, a sure sign of an absence of glamor in the thing).  The difference between the last two categories is kind of interesting; while glamor models perform an absurdly hyperbolic version of femininity (the really quite charming Jordan being perhaps the best recent example), the lads mags put as much, if not more, effort into insisting that the version of femininity they present is not a performance at all, which is the specific performance of which Jo Guest, Donna Air, and Sheridan Smith are masters.

MSNBC's Tamron Hall projects an image of professionalism via her suits and haircuts. This reminds me, in a roundabout sort of way, of the dual descriptions that circulate on the internet of Fox News’s female anchors as looking like either porn stars or transsexuals. What I think maybe  people are groping at with these misogynistic and transphobic comparisons is a sense that Jamie Colby or Megyn Kelly perform gender in a way that’s somehow too obvious. The mistake here is to think that it’s only when you’re sexy that you’re performing sex; but Tamron Hall’s no-nonsense short hair, or Brit Hume’s rumbling monotone delivery are also gendered performances.

Comments

  1. anodyne lite, 1:40 pm, June 15, 2009

    Good point about Hall and Hume. They do seem to have a sort of middle class, next-door neighborly relatability that many other Fox anchors lack. Hume is also well-known as the voice of reason, their one anchor who isn’t willing to just play along with Fox’s special blend of pure spectacle with opinion journalism. Hall lends an aura of “maybe we have conservative career women viewers whom we shouldn’t alienate entirely” credibility to an otherwise very retrograde network. Kimberly Guilfoyle (in overly-made up appearance and performance) really struck one as the sort of woman who could just as easily be playing a lawyer in porn flick set in a courtroom, where Hall could be your Halle Barry-lookalike professor or colleague.

    When it comes to celebrity in the UK, I’ve always wondered if maybe stardom broke down earlier thanks to a couple of factors: their market is smaller and therefore easier to crack (example: Katie Price)– leading to a proliferation of minor and over-visible celebrities–and they have a much more vicious tabloid culture, which loves to feature horrifyingly ‘real’ shots focusing on, e.g., the pit-stains of starlets like Kate Winslet, compared to US tabloids, which tend to airbrush the hell out of even “candid” People Magazine shots of minor celebrities like Tori Spelling. Tabloids here are good PR, in the UK they often mean the end of your credibility.

  2. hawaii bob, 1:37 am, August 1, 2011

    aloha BEAUTIFUL Miss HALL should b kissed with passion on a very regular basis. incredable thick allureing lips mahalo aloha hb

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