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January 20, 2014

Where Celebrity Used to Leave Off and Everything Else Would Begin

William Macy tin type Victoria Will

Rednecks might sometimes play golf, but rednecks do not go on golf outings with their entire family. They do not pose with golf clubs and all of their brothers at the country club after a great game.

from: Duck Decoy: How the entertainment industry made the Duck Dynasty family into rednecks (Washington Monthly)

Somedays, I wonder if celebrity and fame has become the plasma driving public culture. Whether we’re talking about hard news or the increasingly pliable space that is entertainment news, it seems media is becoming more celebrity laden and culture more celebrity obsessed. At the same time, it also feels that celebrity news, celebrity images and celebrity PR is becoming more unbound. It feels, in other words, like the role and phenomenon of celebrity is bleeding into other areas, such as hard news, or it is blurring perceptual lines, such as those between reality and fiction or, in the case of this William Macy photo, even present and past.

Here are three very recent instances — two, in fact, published yesterday — where celebrity photos (or photos of celebrities) could be seen to confound these distinctions.

TV Duck Dynasty JPEG 0541c

Concerning Phil Robertson and the redneck family that stars in the reality show, Duck Dynasty, photos released of the family recently by Washington Monthly (Phil, far left above, and his kids, some above, and below) exposed the lives of the Robertsons as a complete fabrication.

Phil Robertson sons

The question is, however, whether their public is going to take this as an act of bad faith, or continue to honor and enjoy the hillbilly characterizations as if pretend (and isn’t this what PR has most blatantly become, at this point?) has its own integrity?

In the case of the photos from Sundance, photographer Victoria Will (an offspring of the famous columnist, George Will) documenting the film/celebrity event, the Sundance Film Festival, garnered major attention from the pop culture mag, Esquire, for capturing film stars as if they were straight out of the 1860’s.

Klitschko Ukraine protest

And then, we have a photo of boxing champion Vitali Klitschko in the middle of Ukranian protests that may well determine the fate of the government. In this case, Klitschko’s fame not only helps popularize and legitimize the people’s movement, keeping it front and center in the news, but invariably brightens Klitschko’s star as visibility (not to mention, drama and character) are the name of the game.

Beyond just a topic, a category or a professional designation now, it’s like celebrity has become its own medium, and allusion.

(photo 1: Victoria Will/Invision/AP via 21 Sundance 2014 Old-Fashioned Portraits – Sundance 2014 .photo 2: AP Photo/A&E, Zach Dilgard caption: “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson, far right, not aiming for the House.. photo 3: Washington Monthly. photo 4: Efrem Lukatsky/AP caption: Opposition leader and former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, center, is attacked and sprayed with a fire extinguisher as he tries to stop the clashes between police and protesters in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. A group of radical activists began attacking riot police with sticks, trying to push their way toward the Ukrainian parliament building, which has been cordoned off by rows of police and buses.)

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  • bks3bks
  • bystander

    re” Daniel Luzer’s observations about the poses “rednecks” strike – and with whom – when they play golf…

    Geeze, Dan, generalize much? I live surrounded by “rednecks.” You know? Those people who work in the fields on combines, on tractors pulling plows, and for whom skin cancer at altitude is a real risk on that skin endlessly exposed to the sun not shaded by a seed cap – you know – real rednecks? And, you’re right. They do play golf. And, they wear golf shorts and polo shirts – and contrary to your generalization – the rednecks I know do have their pictured taken with their sons – even shots where they’re holding (*gasp*) golf clubs! Amazing, right?

    I dunno, Michael. This is the reason that I threaten to cancel the spousal unit’s satellite TV subscription and put a shotgun round straight into the TV screen. Reality TV that ain’t anywhere near reality. What I want to know is how people become so enamored of this stuff? Why does it sell? And, then, why do people identify so strongly with it? It’s like the whole viewing audience of this crap has regressed to the mindset of early adolescent females reading Seventeen magazine thinking models really look like those in the photo shoot in “real life.”

    I don’t fault Daniel Luzer for trying to pull a mask off the Robertson clan, though his attack strategy just strikes me as pandering to some kind of caricature of a stereotype. Not sure I can say this well… This whole Duck Dynasty stuff, and shows like it, seem to be examples of how a stereotype can be further reduced to caricature, and people seem to eat it up (either pro or con). Whether railing in favor or mocking against… it strikes me as “sound and fury” directed at an utter illusion.

    [Wanders off muttering to self...]

  • GeorgeMokray

    “I recount a confrontation that Karl Rove and Ailes had around the time of the 2010 midterm elections, when the Tea Party wave was washing over America, Sarah Palin was flirting with running for president, Fox was giving airtime to Tea Party candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Michelle Bachman and others.

    “And Rove goes to Ailes, and Rove is the consummate party insider … [he] went to Ailes and effectively said: You’re going to kill our party. You’re promoting people like Christine ‘I’m a witch’ O’Donnell. You’re putting Palin out there. These are marginal fringe candidates that are never going to win an election.

    “And I think in that confrontation you can see how Ailes’ instinct and agenda, to promote both very entertaining candidates and very far-right candidates, damaged the party. And that’s what brought him into conflict with Rove.”


  • stevelaudig

    “whether their public is going to take this as an act of bad faith”. There are deception venues in which ‘bad faith’ i.e. either lying [or its more pernicious relative bull-shitting [ per Frankfurt]] is the coin of communication. Think the movies, advertising, much television, theatre where there is a rather express understanding that what you are being shown/told isn’t a factual truth. The phrase ‘an act of bad faith’ draws our attention to the ‘bad faith’ but the Ducks are really just ‘an act’ and so in that sense it can never be bad faith except for those poor desperate-to-believe fundie sods who didn’t get the memo [or if they got it didn't 'get' it] that this is mere entertainment. What is permeating public venues is that it is all entertainment and when one turns on the “tv” one enters a dream. It’s not really false advertising either as the network is called “Arts and Entertainment” neither of which is under oath, as it were. Cheers in the lying New Years.

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