Can Celebrity Culture ever be a good thing?

Can Celebrity Culture ever be a good thing?

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

As highlighted in my last blog post, it is worrying that some celebrities are teaching young people that no one cares about them. I’ve shown in previous blogs that there are positives to this culture but I wanted to find out from ‘insiders’ if they believed celebrity culture could be a good thing. I asked Jennifer Lynn (former employee of MTV), Sone Aluko (footballer), and JB Gill (member of boyband JLS) what they thought about this and this was their response.

Lynn believes that celebrity culture can have a positive impact on young people through “the media highlighting people who have worked hard for their success, who have given back to the community and who are genuinely grateful for everything they receive”. Emma Watson would be a prime example of this, using her success in the Harry Potter films to launch a campaign that calls for gender equality. Lynn adds that if the celebrities do good things and the media then reports them, this should ultimately circle round to the young people and be a positive influence, which would relate to the ripple effect I have mentioned before.  However Aluko (2015) states that

“The focus will always be on what sells the most over any moral responsibilities to its viewers. Inevitably this will always mean the more superficial and eye-catching glamorous parts of life will be the focus and define celebrity culture”.

This is worrying for our young people as it creates an image that is often unattainable. Aluko believes that “celebrity culture could do a lot more for breaking down discriminations, prejudices and insecurities that young people may have or encounter”. More ethnic minority role models, particularly from areas out with “sport and entertainment”, are needed to create positive role models for people who may not have one.

If celebrity culture can change and raise up a different kind of celebrity, this may have a better influence over our young people. Gill (2015) notes the importance in society of creating celebrities who “embody positive traits”, as this should hopefully result in a positive impact upon young people and children of today. However, Aluko (2015) reminds “that celebrity culture is not always admirable, morally correct or even factual but it’s mainly just for entertainment and shouldn’t be seen as an example to follow”.

This culture can be used to influence young people positively, and because young people are attracted to who is popular, it is therefore important for these celebrities to have, in Gill’s (2015) words, “a strong moral compass and take pride in the influence they have”. Where they actually acquire this moral compass is an interesting question. Aluko (2015) highlights that being a good role model for young followers is important to football’s governing bodies and clubs, revealing that being a good role model is practically a part of the footballing profession. However, most celebrities do not have this governing body who look out for how they behave. Instead they may have publicists and PR teams whose goal is to make the celebrity’s name known at all costs. Perhaps celebrities should also embrace the responsibility that comes with the status? Compared to footballers who have a governing body, Gill states that often celebrities are “governed and driven by money, work, fame, adoration, their experiences and a whole host of other things”. Gill also states that celebrity culture should have a positive influence and the people who can do this are the individual celebrities and also the people who influence them.

Do you know who is influencing your young people? Young people are easily influenced but as part of the Church we should be providing our young people with strong, faithful role models. Would you class yourself as a great role model?

Elyse Mackinnon
Former student president

Celebrity Big Brother – what WOULD Jesus do?

Celebrity Big Brother – what WOULD Jesus do?

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

2016… Forget “New Year, New Me’, everyone knows (okay, well some) that the start of a New Year means one thing – the return of Celebrity Big Brother!! If you have read any of my earlier posts you will know that I am – unashamedly – a fan. This year is particularly interesting; most of the celebrities have already participated in another Reality TV show. This supports the idea that this form of media is fuelling celebrity culture.

However, what do we do when someone is placed within the house and makes comments ‘because they are a Christian’? You may have seen online (or not) that an incident occurred on CBB and the contestant’s response was ‘because they were a Christian it was okay’, when actually they could not justify that kind of response. This does not only have implications for the contestant but it also impacts the public’s view of Christianity. Now I know some of you will question how much of an impact this can actually have but a staggering 3.2 million people watched at least part of the first episode of SEASON 17 (!!!!!!!). Each individual watching CBB has the potential to be influenced by what they see.

If this is how a celebrity who is a Christian behaves on the TV, how can we support such a person?! How can we actually respond to this? I think that this is a perfect example of why we must become involved in this culture. Yes, it is not our place to judge (Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37; Romans 2:1; etc.), but it is our place to love and be an example to non-believers regardless of any beliefs or images they may have of us. We (unfortunately) cannot change what people have viewed but we can walk alongside them, which is what we should do with celebrity culture.

As Celebrity Big Brother ended on Sunday night (10th January 2016) it ended with one of the contestants in the Diary Room and she had this to say:

“This is … 20th Century (sic) mate. No one gives a **** about anyone else. Everyone cares about themselves and I’m sick of it. No one gives a **** about you”.

This is what this generation is being taught – by a celebrity. No one cares about you. If this is not a good enough reason to become involved within this culture, then I am unsure I will ever be able to sway you. Watching celebrities on a Reality TV show is more popular now than it ever has been so, dare I ask the question: Do you think Jesus would have participated in any way? (I do not have the answer for this.)

By Elyse Mackinnon.

Channel Five, ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ Available from http://www.channel5.com/shows/celebrity-big-brother/episodes/episode-7-540

Telly Mix, ‘Celebrity Big Brother 2016 Ratings Down 500,000 Viewers on Last Year’ Available from http://www.tellymix.co.uk/ratings/246281-celebrity-big-brother-2016-ratings-500000-viewers-last-year.html

So what do we think of Christian celebrities (like Jesus?)

So what do we think of Christian celebrities (like Jesus?)

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

By Elyse Mackinnon.

It is important to highlight that Christians are not immune to the effects of celebrity culture, but we also have the risk of creating our own celebrity culture. Staub (2007:46) comments that

“the Christian entertainment culture (Christian TV, movies, music, and books) is often characterized by the same spiritual confusion, intellectual superficiality, and marketing and money-driven values as the broader popular culture”.

As Christians, there is a risk that we step away from the secular celebrity culture but, in replacement, we set up our own taking our focus away from Christ himself and onto others. With regards to the Christian-celebrity market, Sweet (2012:30) asks the question ‘How many of us are finding our narrative identity in the stories of Christian celebrities and not in the story of Christ?’ It is important that although we may long to have similarities to what is happening in the world, churches learn how to bring the focus always on to Christ. Sweet continues by raising fears that this is now a ‘cult culture’ (2012:30), which does not call for people to hold on to Christian values, and as Drane (2005:91) states ‘there are some aspects of celebrity culture that do not accord with the values of the gospel’, whether this be idolatry or even gossip. I often find myself asking, ‘Am I putting more emphasis on this person rather than Christ?’ – especially when it comes to following “Christian celebrities”.

There is also a risk of giving power to the image of a celebrity; there is a danger that we reduce God to just an image (Boorstin, 1961:183). Jesus is the most famous person ever to walk on the earth and is ultimately the greatest ‘celebrity’ ever, and Drane (2005:90) acknowledges that ‘there is enormous interest in Jesus as a celebrity figure’, however when we compare Jesus to being a celebrity as we understand it today, he is greater than them all. To clarify, I am not saying that Jesus lived the life of a celebrity; rather I am acknowledging that there was a buzz about the man who came and did miraculous things and who went against the norm. A buzz that only a person who is well known can often create. People who lived at the same time as Jesus wanted to know more about him and what he was doing which is revealed through many stories within the Bible, for example, Mark 5:24-34 where it is clear that people flocked to Jesus, possibly in a similar fashion to young girls flocking to One Direction. Another key story revealing Jesus’ celebrity status is found in Luke 10:38-42, Poinsett (2004:91) states that Martha’s behaviour reveals that she recognised “the importance of the occasion and Jesus’ celebrity status”.

Boorstin DJ, 1961, The Image, New York: Vintage Books
Drane J, 2005, Celebrity Culture, Edinburgh: Rutherford House
Poinsett B, 2004, She Walked With Jesus: Stories of Christ Followers in the Bible, Alabama: New Hope Publishers
Staub D, 2007, The Culturally Savvy Christian, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Sweet L, 2012, I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus, Nashville: Thomas Nelson

Christians working in Celebrity Culture

Christians working in Celebrity Culture

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

Former student president Elyse Mackinnon continues her reflections on Christian involvement in Celebrity Culture.

As I write about Celebrity Culture, I feel like I tend to focus of the negative side of it, which really doesn’t help us as Christians learn how to deal with this. Transformation does happen, and I would like to argue that the ripple effect is already in motion.

Today, there are many examples of Christian working within celebrity culture, which would relate to Niebuhr’s idea of ‘Christ the Transformer of Culture’. There is a change in direction within the United States of America in particular, and I believe the Church in the UK could learn from this. When Kanye West and Kim Kardashian tied the knot, it became one of the most talked-about celebrity weddings to have ever happened. However, it was not the dress or guests who received the most attention but the pastor who married them: Rich Wilkerson Jr. Wilkerson is working right at the heart of the celebrity culture and with the celebrities themselves. He offers a place where everyone is welcome which links pop culture to the church (Swenson, 2014). Wilkerson states:

“I think for a long time, the church ran from culture,” he explains. “I want to run to culture, to engage culture. Do I agree with everything in culture? Absolutely not. But my whole message is you can’t really change something you’re not a part of.”

Therefore it is very clear: if Christians want to change culture, they must become involved within it. Christians may want to run away from the idea of church mirroring culture but Wilkerson is doing the opposite by signing up to a Reality TV show, something that Wilkerson says ‘has become the language of our culture’ (Helling, 2014). This will reach a group of people who are directly involved in consuming celebrity culture. He continues by saying “It’s a chance for me to show the love of Jesus Christ. It’s a platform” (Helling, 2014). Christ’s love can be shown and His work can be done through willing people allowing for change and transformation. This is direct action within a culture, using a tool that celebrity culture thrives off and attempting to use this to reveal the Lord to people.

Wilkerson is not the only preacher to be using tools from celebrity culture to reach out to people. Chris Durso, who leads Misfit NYC (one of the largest youth ministries within New York City) uses hip hop and the spoken word as tools to reach out to young people. This is a clear example of using the forms and language of the culture to meet people where they are. MTV, a key player within celebrity culture, have taken note themselves about what Durso and his team are doing in NYC and have reached out to them by attending their services. Church brands such as Hillsong have also grown within celebrity culture by working alongside celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens. Possibly one of Hillsong’s greatest achievements in breaking into celebrity culture will be the release of their movie, ‘Let Hope Arise’, which captures ‘the spectacular and unlikely rise to prominence of … Hillsong United’ (Hillsong Movie Official Website, 2015), throwing God into the spotlight within another major movie.

Drane (2000:177) states:

If Christianity is to have any relevance to the life of Western people in the twenty-first century, we will need to be ready to learn from the fast-growing churches of the rest of the world.

The UK must also learn from Western countries as well if it wants to grow. If Churches want to attract young people, they must find out what is working across the Atlantic and within other countries. The saving message of Christ will always be relevant but it is how the church decides to share this that will make an impact within celebrity culture.

 

Drane J, 2000, Cultural Change and Biblical Faith, Surrey:Paternoster Press

Helling S, 2014, Kim and Kanye’s Reality TV-Bound Pastor: “I Believe in Their MarriagePeople Magazine.

Martinez J, 2014, Chris Durso Leads Generation of ‘Misfits,’ Credits Creativity for Ministry SuccessChristian Post.

Official Hillsong Movie Website, 2015, Let Hope Arise.

Swenson K, 2014, Rich WILKERSON Jr., Kanye’s Miami-Based Hipster Pastor, Preaches Controversial Brand Of Christianity, Miami New Times.

 

 

Diving into Celebrity Culture

Diving into Celebrity Culture

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

By Elyse Mackinnon @ElyseMackinnon

It is all very well saying that Christians should become involved within Celebrity Culture, but how do we do this? What should this look like? And, what if we don’t become involved?

I will admit that as I studied Celebrity Culture I sometimes felt like it would be a lot easier if Christians followed the ‘Christ Against Culture’ model from Richard Niebuhr’s work Christ and Culture (1951), meaning that Christians should reject celebrity culture completely. The Christ Against Culture model “uncompromisingly affirms the sole authority of Christ over the Christian and resolutely rejects culture’s claims to loyalty” (Niebuhr, 1951:45). By following this, Christians effectively abandon all responsibility to try and work within this culture and not help the people influenced by it. If we strive to break away from this culture it could be understood that we are “creating a subculture of our own that acts like a protective bubble against the corrosive influence of the world around us” (White, 2010:67). A subculture of our own could have the potential of creating a safe space of our own beliefs (I use the word ‘safe’ as it implies the culture would include what is wanted, what is important to the person).

Romans 12:2 highlights that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (ESV, 2007). But does ‘not conforming’ to the world mean separating ourselves from what the world sees as being important? A protective bubble would be created around Christians, but is this what the Bible asks Christians to do, to not reach the nations and stay away completely? White challenges this view stating (2010:69):

“But it is more accurate to say that as the distance between Christ and culture grows, the more clearly we need to draw the lines between being “in” the world but not “of” it. But make no mistake – we are to be in it“.

There is a huge danger of creating a bubble that separates Christ and his followers from all forms of culture that exist in the world. White highlights the importance of believers being ‘in the world’, which allows Christians to connect with others and work within certain cultures. Followers of Christ are called to be different from the world (1 John 2:15-17) but we cannot shut off the world completely. If Christians were to block off the world then they would not be following the example of Paul who adapted to and arguably challenged the cultures he found himself in (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

This may be a viable option for Christians, but is the best way to tackle celebrity culture to simply act like it does not happen? Drane (2000:121) addresses ‘the question of what the church will need to be in the new cultural context’ in two ways. The Church can either, like the Christ against Culture option, turn away from culture, or the Church can accept it and re-evaluate how we do ministry within this culture. Humans should use culture; it is not an enemy to humans or even to God (Kraft, 1979:113). Therefore, if believers agree with this, it is almost their duty to try to transform the culture with God. In order to transform, Christians should be prepared to use the language of the culture and become fully involved within it, but there must be contact with the culture. Having contact “typically stimulates changes in culture and language that issue in expansion, redefinition, and replacement of the conceptual categories of the culture” (Kraft, 1979:355). Could there be potential for Christians to change the idea of celebrities being like gods by bringing back attention to the one true God? Kraft (1979:347) writes of the ripple effect that happens “when change occurs in the worldview”, and he states that when change happens the ripples created allow for there to be “change … generated throughout the culture”. This ripple effect could be enough to see Celebrity Culture transformed.

 

Drane J, 2000, Cultural Change and Biblical Faith, Surrey:Paternoster Press

Kraft CH, 1979, Christianity in Culture, New York:Orbis Books

Niebuhr HR, 1951, Christ & Culture, New York:Harper Collins

White JE, 2010, Christ Among the Dragons: Finding Our Way Through Cultural Challenges, Illinois:InterVarsity Press

What would Kate Moss do?

What would Kate Moss do?

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

One of my favourite companies is The Giving Keys, based in California – I love everything about this company including what it sells and its values. A key thing I should mention is that I only know about this company through seeing a celebrity, such as Zac Efron, wear a Giving Key product therefore advertising it.

This is something that happens all the time; celebrities advertise countless products. This ranges from make up (Kate Moss – Rimmel London) to underwear (Justin Bieber – Calvin Klein). “Attaching a celebrity to a product was viewed as an essential element of an advertising campaign and a guarantee of added sales” (Taylor 2008:152). Regardless of the product celebrities are advertising they will impact on the sales, and personally I know it impacts on what brands I tend to purchase. Companies will often use famous people to advertise high-end products such as designer clothes but “fifteen minute” celebrities will promote lower-end products such as magazines or hair products. When magazines use a celebrity’s image on the cover, the magazines are providing exposure for the celebrity which is something they need in order to stay known and since image is everything when it comes to being a celebrity, advertising helps with this.

The rise in technology has allowed fans to find out what their favourite celebrity is up to instantly. Stories about these celebrities capture our timelines and newsfeeds and become important to followers of celebrity culture. It is here consumers make their own judgment regarding the celebrity and whether to buy into that particular celebrity’s lifestyle, or not. People make judgments on people they have never met – and most likely will never meet – without knowing all the facts yet think their view is still valid, which is a form of gossip.

You can find me on many types of social media – Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. I LOVE them! Not only do I love them, but many celebrities do too, which makes it a key factor in keeping Celebrity Culture alive. I believe that social media is going to keep evolving and will not slow down meaning that Celebrity Culture is here to stay.

You may not know this but Katy Perry has the title of ‘most followed on Twitter’, boasting a following of 74.4millon – her closest rival is Justin Bieber with 66.7million (I admit that I follow Bieber not Perry). Twitter allows for ordinary people to have a glimpse into a celebrity’s life, which gives the impression that there is easy access to their favourite celebrity. Turner (2013:104) comments that ‘The Twitter revolution has meant that even their most mundane observations can be instantly spread around the world’. Many people hang on to every word a celebrity tweets and Instagram is also widely used by celebrities to reach out to their adoring fans.

When Justin Bieber tweeted ‘God is good’ in 2014; it was re-tweeted over 93,300 times and ‘favourited’ over 94,000 times. As soon as a celebrity makes any reference to their faith they will be praised or criticized for their revelations, as with anything else they may be seen to advertise.

Social Media may be an easy way for celebrities to ‘connect” with fans but one major issue of this is that it opens you up to easy criticism from those who may be against you, they can tweet you back or leave comments. This is called trolling – and it is extremely common!! Actor Colin Firth (2015), in a recent interview with Shortlist.com, said this regarding social media

Social media has immense power. There’s a long conversation to be had – and it’s raging – about the democratising opinion. There are some issues around its abuse. Trolling, for example.

Trolling is the key word used to describe when a person aims to start an argument with another by slating something that has previously been said. This happens a lot with celebrities and it could be said that some young people now troll others on the Internet. Firth continues by saying ‘…but if you want privacy, the Internet’s not the place to find it.’ Twitter has become the place for all to share their own personal opinions and it is a democracy on twitter. However, due to the rise of trolling, the question arises as to whether or not people are sharing too many opinions without thinking about the consequences for example Katie Hopkins being trolled over comments she made in the run up to the Scottish Referendum. Firth has a point; a lot of the celebrities who make up celebrity culture should pay attention to the wisdom her shares.

If Christians want to tackle the factors that keep Celebrity Culture alive, we must be prepared to become involved in them – it may be the only way to make a difference in this culture that is here to stay.

Elyse Mackinnon

 

Shortlist, 2015 “Colin Firth And Taron Egerton On Tinder, Style And The State Of British Men”. Available from: http://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/films/colin-firth-and-taron-egerton-on-tinder-style-the-state-of-british-men  (accessed 05/02/15)

Taylor B, 2008 Entertainment Theology Grand Rapids: Baker Academic

Turner S, 2013 Pop Cultured: Thinking Christianity about style, media and entertainment Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press

 

Big Brother

Big Brother

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

By Elyse MacKinnon

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I gave in to the power of Big Brother and watched every episode. For those of you of may have not watched it, the winner has now been announced – Chloe! To many this will mean nothing, but for Chloe there is a chance that she can finally have her 15 minutes of fame. However, in order to keep the momentum there are various elements that need to fall into place. These elements will give her a status and they are also vital for keeping Celebrity Culture alive.

When researching this topic, I concluded that celebrity culture is kept alive through key elements such as symbiosis, commerce, social networking and technology.

Celebrities use the media to gain attention, and the media also uses the celebrity; this is a symbiotic relationship. This is a condition where each party draws from, and continues to support, the other; this symbiotic relationship has a mutual benefit and does not rely on there being a personal connection. When Perez Hilton, celebrity blogger, went into the Celebrity Big Brother house last year he was clear in stating that celebrities he may be friendly with are not his ‘real friends – its either them using me or me using them’. They need each other, and celebrity culture definitely needs this relationship.

Becoming a celebrity involves being willing to have a certain level of disclosure because celebrity, today, often includes making the details of everyday life public knowledge and allowing this life to be constantly photographed. Rojek (2001:95) believes that the celebrities people read about are ‘symbols of belonging and recognition that distract us in positive ways from the terrifying meaninglessness of life in a post-God world.’ It should come as a shock that there is a ‘meaningless of life’ and it is celebrities who are filling that void. The meaning of life is not sought after as much as it used to be and people go through life as it just happens, and it is found that in an increasingly humanist society people are now turning others into ‘gods’ and turning away from God himself.

In my next blog I will discuss the impact of commerce, social networking and technology upon celebrity culture.

Channel Five, ‘Celebrity Big Brother: Live Launch’ Available from: http://www.channel5.com/shows/celebrity-big-brother/episodes/live-launch-3

Rojek C, 2001 Celebrity Great London: Reaktion Books Ltd

Faith in Celebrity? (fame vs celebrity)

Faith in Celebrity? (fame vs celebrity)

FAITH IN CELEBRITY

Former student president Elyse Mackinnon continues her reflections on faith in a celebrity culture.

I tried my best not to watch the current season of Big Brother, however I gave in… and watch it every single night (it’s tradition!!). This year I have been amazed at how confident the contestants are in believing that they will have a glittering career in showbiz upon leaving the house. Often this is not the case, they are known during their time within the house but as soon as they exit the public forget their names. It is a dream that many have: to become a household name. Celebrity now relates more than ever to the Latin meaning of the word, celebrem, as it indicates “a relationship in which a person is marked out as possessing singularity, and a social structure in which the character of fame is fleeting” (Rojek, 2001:9). The world of celebrity is fast-paced – it is ever-changing with a continuous flow of celebrities and it is certainly not guaranteed to last forever.

Andy Warhol stated “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” (1968). Having understood that celebrity can be fleeting, surely fame means something different, something more than just 15 minutes? I believe that gone are the days when you needed a talent to become famous; the lines are now blurred as to what separates someone from being famous or being a celebrity. Turner (2013:102) states “One of the main differences between the contemporary celebrity and the famous person of old is that fame used to be the result of greatness”. People are now becoming ‘insta-famous’ by just posting pictures on Instagram, and reality TV shows such as TOWIE are seen to be a great opportunity to become ‘known’, but this is a fleeting moment.

The blurring of the line between celebrity and fame allows for people to appear to attain both. Today, fans want to know what famous people are up to, which effectively forces the famous person into the image-driven world of celebrity. It may be because of a talent that certain individuals are marked out, such as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. However due to the fame they gain, people take an interest in their personal lives and the press are more than happy to cover this, both positively and negatively. Famous people may not necessarily seek to become a celebrity yet they are automatically classed as celebrities due to the media attention. Therefore fame is something that is earned and remembered but celebrity, as we know it, is often not.

As it appears there are no major differences between fame and celebrity in today’s society, celebrity culture includes all kinds of ‘famous’ people – regardless of talent, greatness, and whether or not they can be long-lasting within the industry.

@ElyseTheFri

C Rojek (2001), Celebrity, Reaktion Books
S Turner (2013), Pop Cultured: Thinking Christianly about style, media and entertainment, IVP

Faith in Celebrity?

Faith in Celebrity?

FAITH IN CELEBRITY YOUTH AND COMMUNITY

Celebrity Culture and Shopping: two things I love!! Some might possibly say that I appear shallow for admitting this, however, I think these subjects raise huge issues that the Church needs to learn to deal with. Each month I intend to focus on certain issues that arise out of Celebrity Culture and Consumerism, and what an appropriate Christian response could be. To begin with, I will focus on Celebrity Culture.

I have grown up in a generation where celebrities are role models, people we should aspire to be like. I wanted to know what my favourite celebrities were doing and I especially wanted to meet them. To me, this was simply a hobby but as I have grown in my faith my view on celebrity culture has altered. I have concerns over celebrities becoming like demi-gods and the power they appear to have over young people in particular, through the rise in social media and the advances in technology.

My definition of Celebrity Culture is this: Celebrity Culture has the ability to reach many types of people by creating an image of what the ideal life seems to looks like. In particular, celebrity culture uses media and representation to place importance upon certain individuals deemed to be important. What it obviously fails to do is teach about the dangers and the impact of this culture.

This definition will help us to try and understand Celebrity Culture and the impact it has. However, many questions arise which I hope to explore such as:

Should Christians become involved with this culture? What is fuelling this culture and keeping it alive? How is Celebrity Culture impacting young Christians? And, dare I ask, would Jesus be considered a celebrity in this day and age?

Elyse Mackinnon (former student)