Bruce Jenner and the Aging Celebrity

Bruce JennerBruce Jenner’s gender transition has been the subject of obsessive media attention for some months now, culminating in Diane Sawyer’s interview of him on the ABC news show 20/20.  In a poignant exchange, Jenner declared that the gods had given him the soul of a woman as a cosmic joke. Much has been written on importance of Jenner’s revelation for the acceptance of transgendered people, but the interview also gives a fascinating glimpse into aging celebrity.
In the age of film and photograph, celebrities were trapped like flies in amber, caught in an eternal moment of youth, beauty, glamor and talent.   When a Daily Mail journalist recently asked Bridget Bardot, one of the most beautiful women of her generation, how she differed from Marilyn Monroe, she said, “We were both victims of our image which imprisoned us.”  Aging has never been kind to celebrities, especially women who have been frozen by the photograph and the movie still.
Transitioning to female at sixty-five, Jenner has the ability to revise the archive of his past images.  In the ABC interview, we are presented with a photo album of Jenner’s life, from his childhood on.   Some of these are candid and private; others are old media images. Footage of Jenner’s great 1976 Olympic achievements scroll by, as Sawyer narrates the meaning of his former media embodiment as “the muscle and glory of America.”   All of these images are subject to a massive emotional overhaul, as Jenner tearfully talks about his inner feelings of experiencing another identity, one quite different than the hypermasculine “world’s greatest athlete” of a former life.
Astonishing is the new intimacy of celebrity that we now witness over entire lifetimes.  Celebrity is no longer a fixed gaze, but an immersive experience that demands understanding of change and reflection on the cosmic joke of our own aging. As we watch other celebrities age, how will these reflections expand and deepen?

Ann Larabee, Editor

Journal of Popular Culture

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Celebrity and the rise of pseudo-science

Currently in-vogue Power Balance bracelet

In many increasingly secular Western countries, faith in religion seems to be losing ground to faith in science.  Although in itself worrying for some, I think both would find much more problematic the rise in the last decade of faith in celebrity.  Taking these stars of the sports field, airwaves and silver screen as our aspirational role models for all we wish to do and be, it seems impossible not to listen and take to heart what they say.  It’s just a shame it equally seems impossible to be in the public eye and not endorse a position a considerable distance from the mainstream.  The celebrity converts to scientology and other ‘unconventional’ religions are already well documented, and now, as we move into 2011, Sense About Science (SAS) have released their annual list of dubious endorsements made by the stars in the world of science.

Mocking Cheryl Cole’s ‘blood-group specific’ diet regime, Sarah Harding’s practice of Continue reading “Celebrity and the rise of pseudo-science”