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The passion plays of celebrity culture

journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2016, 00:00 authored by Sean RedmondSean Redmond
If there is a cultural arena today where passion plays a central and heightened role, then it is in the affecting and textural operations of celebrity. Celebrity representations are crafted out of passionate aesthetic signifiers and impassioned pleas to the senses, to the emotions and to the exaggerations of feeling that the consumer or fan is asked to register and then fully embody. Celebrity culture attempts to turn one into a passionate creature, ruled by the heart, lost in a sea of desires and desiring wants and needs, as the adoring figure that moves us, moves intimately before us. Such passions can and do go unrequited, of course; some are resisted and rejected, and some celebrity passions register as fully carnal and liberating encounters. That is to say, the plays of celebrity passion serve (hetero) normative and policed accounts of feeling and belonging in the world, fuel a desire for commodity objects and material possessions, and yet also open up the possibility for engagements that are violent, liberal and unregulated. In this article, I will explore the ways in which celebrity culture engages with passion and through the idea of it involving a modern form of the passion play. Following Lauren Berlant, I will argue that the passion ignited by the celebrity works to contain and regulate desire, and yet also offers up the opportunity for sensorial engagements that violate and resist the normative terms of desiring. I will suggest celebrity figures are themselves caught up in this passion play, suffering and feeling deeply at the same time, while channelling this violent crisis to their fans as they do so. Finally, I will write the article passionately, from an impassioned perspective, measuring and weighting my own desires in the contradictions and tensions of passion as they emerge in the body of the writer before you. This article is part of a themed issue entitled ‘Passion’.



European Journal of Cultural Studies






234 - 249





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2016, Sage