In the last 12 hours, I had a fascinating conversation with Toronto-based American historian Jarret Ruminski. On my Facebook page, I shared how Ellen DeGeneres’ ‘selfie’ at the 86th Academy Awards got re-tweeted more than 3 million times. The re-tweet of the ‘star-studded selfie’ led to Samsung donating a total of $3 million to two of her favorite charities: the Humane Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. More on http://www.ecorazzi.com/2014/03/04/ellens-oscar-selfie-earns-millions-for-charity/
Ruminski makes an excellent observation and raises a rhetorical question in response to the donation. He appropriately asks “I guess some good can occasionally come out of rampant narcissism, eh?” Indeed, selfies can be expressions of narcissism in celebrity culture and in everyday life. When I say celebrity culture, I do not mean a cultural system created by media, celebrities and their agents, but I include fans that re-create celebrities through their own media constructions. As Richard Dyer, Chris Rojek and many other Celebrity Studies scholars contend, a celebrity is a text that is constructed by media. Without these texts, celebrities do not exist. Recently, Celebrity Studies scholar David Marshall offered his excellent views on public personas, individuality and social media at http://jou.sagepub.com/content/15/2/153.full. For produced by desires of fans that exceed the desire of self.
I believe that the re-tweets speak of fans more than the tweets of celebrities. One thing is for sure, the selfie contests disempowering acts of tabloid journalism in which a celebrity is often commodified and sold for media profits. In this case, the reverse takes place: charitable donation to a good cause. As I mentioned on my FB page, yes, some good can occasionally come out!
There is another point that Ruminski raises and should be considered by fans: “How do people expect to get an “authentic self” from someone like Ellen, a celebrity who exists in a realm of manufactured reality?” Since the industrial age, authenticity is a cultural construction that seeks to restore the authenticity lost in the process of standardizing creations in nature. From this perspective, Ellen’s self (or in this case her ‘selfie’) is an ideological expression of constructed authenticity.
I often ponder on the question on how we can restore authenticity of all in a fame-based culture? I will address the question during my upcoming talk and performance in Moving Forward at the Toronto’s industREAL arts room (688 Richmond) on Saturday night, March 29.
Till March, enjoy another perspective on Oscar selfies from The Simpsons!
To take part in our conversation right now, visit www.facebook.com/samitanandy
For more information on Dr. Ruminski’s excellent work in American history, visit his blog http://thatdevilhistory.wordpress.com/