M84MC (2012-13) Lecture Six: Communication as Performance- part 1

This is the first of two lectures dedicated to the performative dimension of celebrity communication strategies. The lecture focuses on issues of media productions. The theoretical approaches informing current professional practices are compared with more historical analyses of mass media production, notably Debord’s notion of spectacle. The question asked is, how much of Debord’s theories we can use today, given the entirely different context of production of the media and communication industry?

Lecture slides:  M84MC.06 7 Nov 2012

Homework – due 14 Nov 2012

1. Assignment one
Pick 3 examples of Debordian spectacle. What are their intended functions? How can we read them? How do can we use them? How can detournement work?
2. Assignment two
By now, each group should have picked the celebrities you want to compare, and which specific aspects of their strategies you want to examine. Now you need to decide which approaches and tools you want to invoke to help with your  comparison. As a group, go over the materials and approaches we discussed so far, and weigh their pros and cons. Write your conclusions on the blog. E.g. “We think that adopting perspective X will help us highlight characteristic A of our celebrities. However, perpective X is not taking into account this or that factor…”  

3. Readings

Turner, G. (2004) Understanding Celebrity. Ch.2 “Production” Turner.2004.Celebrity-Production

7 thoughts on “M84MC (2012-13) Lecture Six: Communication as Performance- part 1

  1. Teodora Grigorie

    Our team, made up of Teodora, Bagai, Jennifer, Banke and Rahma choose to analyze Pink and Beyonce communication strategies regarding their perception of love. We will use the narrative theory to show how they construct the discourse of love and relationship. We think that adopting the narrative theory will help us highlight the realism, truth and authenticity characteristics of their conception of love. Through her songs, Pink conveys the tough part of love, the “truth about love” and the fact that you have to fight for it while Beyonce highlights the fact that nowadays women are free and handle easily the problems caused by love. However, the narrative perspective is not taking into account the image management aspects, so we will use visual analysis to talk about the gap left by the narrative theory in the way they act love.
    We will look at two representative videos, namely Pink – Please don’t leave me and Beyonce – Irreplaceable.

  2. Francien Broekhuizen

    Group: Tereza, Yun, Xinlin and Francien
    Celebrities: Beckham’s and Brangelina

    We would like to use a visual analysis and narrative analysis to find out how they create their public persona and how they use authenticity here. We will also pay attention to the way they look on the photos, which makes a visual analysis useful for backing up the general narrative analysis as these two things are highly intertwined. This analysis leaves out the context in which the celebrities are set, as you make them as an object of studies which has the meaning more in itself. Therefore it’s important to look to the context as well, in order to be able to analysis the meaning of the things that are happening more fully, as the celebrities are a part of the culture so it’s important to look how they image is influenced by cultural aspects. We think a discourse analysis will be useful here to look how the social context is constructed around these celebrities. Here it may also be interesting to look at mythologies and ideologies.
    Besides this we would also like to look at the Bordieu theory to look how certain characteristics of the celebrities influence the way we see them, here we mainly would like to focus on things as speech and the words they use. This way of looking at things is a bit more static than

    We use different kinds of approaches together, namely a structural a post-structural approach, we wonder till what extent that’s problematic.

  3. Teodora Grigorie

    First example of Debordian spectacle I want to present is the royal wedding of William and Kate. It was a grandiose event that caught everyone’s attention, in every corner of the world. Also, because of the characters of this wedding, media interrupted all other facts that happened that day. Nevertheless, the presence of the media at this event gave people the illusion of participation and every single person had an opinion about it. Through this spectacle, we could catch a glimpse of what royal life means and we could understand the importance of Kate and William union as being the future of Great Britain.
    The second example is represented by the new haircut of Miley Cyrus. Media had the power to make from this simple change to an important event for her industry. Apparently, her new haircut was understood as a rebellious act and some people got upset. Miley had to be the symbol of innocence, a model for teenagers and media thought that she will send a bad message through this change. Of course, this spectacle was just a marketing action to present another face of Miley Cyrus, a more mature one and an effort to distance Miley from her character Hannah Montana.
    Last but not least, I want to talk about the break up between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Media made a big event from this; fans were very upset because of her cheating, feeling that they were directly involved in the relationship. Looking from the point of view of Debordian spectacle, we can in fact read this scandal as a promotion tool of the new Twilight movie. Weirdly enough, they got back together exactly in time for the new release.

  4. Francien Broekhuizen


    Example 1: Suicide of Tim Ribberink (20)
    Last week the Dutch media was surprised by an extraordinary obituary notice about a young man (20 years) who commits suicide. His parents has printed a part of the ‘goodbye’ letter in the obituary notice and it’s says the following: Dear mum and dad, my whole life I’ve been mocked, bullied and excluded. You’re amazing. I hope you’re not cross with me. Goodbye, Tim.
    The media and lots of Dutch celebrities paid attention to this obituary notice and the reaction were very emotional and highly coloured. Most responses set down youth people as rule and bullies at most: it turned Tim into a total victim but on the other hand as completely innocent with his bullies at the other end of the scale.

    I think the parents’ intention was to pay attention to the possible consequences of bullying and how bad this can turn out. Another thing is they hoped Tim’s death would add something positive to word, to make people think twice about their behaviour. This is the point where the notion of detournement works: Tim was a real underdog in this world, but now he (via his death and the action of his parents) is able to let the prime minster and lots of celebrities talk about the issue of bulling and how bad it is. Here one uses a general idea that one should be able to live one’s life in freedom and being able to be as he is. It also uses the idea that you should treat people with respect. I also draws from the notion that young people are at the start of their lives and should not die. The idea of a narrative of a narrative is clearly the case in this example: as there is only the narrative that is made of the event, it’s unclear what ‘really’ happen and how this could take place. It’s only about the narrative that is created as a result of this event.

    Example 2: Case ‘Milly Boele’
    This is an important media event from the year 2012 and is about a 12 year old girl, named Milly Boele, who was killed by her neighbour and buried in his garden. This all became more problematic when it became clear that her neighbour was a police officer. There was a huge media hype around this drama and the ‘whole’ Netherlands was following this event and was extremely shocked when it was found out that a police officer had committed the crime, which resulted in the feeling that no one could be trusted in this time, even not the police.

    It can be doubted in which extend all the media attention was useful and functional in the process of resolving the case. Milly was set in the media as innocent, because of her age (she was a child) and probably the fact that she was a girl made the attention even bigger, and was set against the cruelty of this world. This was even more highlighted when it became clear that it was done by a police officer, as the police is generally seen as trusted and faithful. Milly was turned into a victim of our cruel society in order to let politicians and celebrities talk and thing about issues of safety, so the made this case a tournement as well. This whole attention was built on general ideologies of innocent children (and girls) and the scary and bad world that is out site. This notion of the scary world that is out site became more highlighted by the fact that she was abducted from her home by her neighbour. This scared peoples idea that you are hardly safe in your own house. This is the narrative that is fixed upon the narrative, the ‘real’ event.

    Example 3: The Snow accident with Prince Friso
    In February 2012 the Dutch Prince Friso got a severe ski accident as a result of an avalanche. He was buried under the snow for almost half an hour before they found him, this was followed by reanimation which took place for 50 minutes. In the hospital they found out that he had severe brain damage as a result of a shortage of oxygen for quite a long time. He is now in London, but his condition is still unchanged and it’s not sure whether he will ever wake up. The people in the Netherlands were quite shocked by this event and there was a big compassion for the queen and the wife of Prince Friso.

    During the weeks after this event there was a big media attention to this event and the Dutch people were very moved by this event. What is interesting here is that there was a lot of attention to the family and human part of this event, as there was a big compassion for the Queen as she (almost) lost her son and also to his wife and children, who (almost) lost their husband and father. From being a Prince who was above the normal people he became, (till a certain extend) just a human who had to face death and terrible events during his life. This was also the case for the Queen and the other members of the family. The use the discourse of family was therefore interesting in this case. I don’t think that there was something happening as a tournement in this case, but in order to create a narrative over the event there were a lot of ideologies used, like the father, the fear of death for everyone (king or servant), family. These ideologies created a shiny, but tragic narrative about the narrative of the event itself and made Friso (and the normal family) more or less like ‘us, normal people’.

  5. Yun, Xinlin, Tereza, Francien

    Group: Tereza, Yun, Xinlin and Francien
    Celebrities: Beckham’s and Brangelina

    We would like to use a visual analysis and narrative analysis to find out how they create their public persona and how they use authenticity. We will also pay attention to the way they look on the photos, which makes a visual analysis (with the use of semotics) useful for backing up the general narrative analysis as these two things are highly intertwined. As a part of their public persona we would also to use the Bordieu Capital, to look how certain parts of their persona place them in the pyramid of our society. Both notions tends towards a more structuralistic approach and therefore has the trap to exclude the environment from the analysis. Because we think the cultural context is also important for getting a broader understanding of the performance of these celebrities we would also like to do a discourse analysis that draws on the findings of the previous analysis in order to place this in a broader context. Here it may also be interesting to look at mythologies and ideologies which underpin the previous analysis.

    We use different kinds of approaches together, namely a structural a post-structural approach, we wonder till what extent that’s problematic?
    And are we right when we say that mythologies (and ideologies?) are linked with visual analysis, as the hegemonic reading of images uses these ideas? And we could not completely get the differences between discourses and ideologies, except that ideologies are more stiff than discourses?

  6. Nnamdie, Linda, Felicia, Julie

    we will like to do a narrative and discourse analysis of James Oliver and Nigella Lawson. we will focus mainly the issue of authenticity, realism and truth, the issue of agency and power will also be another point. we will also pay attention to the discourses surrounding our celebrities way of presenting their identity by taking into consideration “Gender issues and imagery”.

  7. Tereza Krtickova

    Last year, the first president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel died. He was the symbol of the Velvet revolution and he was appreciated for the fight against comunism. There was a big spectacle about his funeral which was broadcasted live on the national television. Many foreign politicians (including former American president Bill Clinton) arrived to condole. The function of the whole funeral procession and funeral mass was to appreciate and show respect to the president. People gathered in Prag and mourned together. It had the symbolic connotation with the demostrations during Velvet revolution where people gathered in Prag and were listening to the speech of Vaclav Havel and the funeral could remind them what they were fighting for. The detournement could work as those crowds use that funeral to show the respect to that person on one side (almost glorification of him) but as well as some kind of manifestation against the current political situation.

    In the autumn of 2010, the nine year old girl Anna was announced missing, possibly kidnapped. This case caught lot of attention by the media in the Czech Republic. There was continuous reporting about the the case spread all over the Czech media. During the time of several weeks, the different possible scenarios were presented, some talked about kidnapping, some about murder, etc. They eventually found the dead body of Anna burried in the woods. There was a suspect which was arrested and questioned. There was a whole narative made by the media about the whole Anna case. She was a lovely, blond, innocent 9 year old girl, coming from school and never getting home. The whole public felt compassioned with the mourning family and it raised wide debates about safety of their children walking on the streets alone. There was a big pressure on the police to solve the case and found the murderer and get the satisfaction for the family. Media presented the news about the suspect as a hunt for the murderer. The suspect in the weird circumstances committed suicide in the cell, but he never plead gulity. Anyway, in the eyes of the public and media he stayed a murderer, the whole narrative of catching a bad guy and geting the satisfaction was very powerful.

    One of the former prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Jiri Paroubek got in the spots of the media especially because of his love affair during his active political career. He was married for several decades, but then an affair with young professional translator leaked out to media. The narrative of a successful politician who changed his wife for a young, attractive lover was created. Especially when he and his wife were not considered by public as a very attractive people. There have been two main narratives about that love affair. At first there was the story about young, attractive gold digger who seduced the politician because of his status and money. And the other one was, that the politician was going through mid life crisis and he needed a more representative woman by his side. The lover herself stated that she fell in love with him because he has a „sexy brains“, when the media refered to his looks. Anyway, there was a huge attention from the public and media about them. They were as well accused of using her pregnancy as part of the political campaign for the elections that were running in the same time.


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