New PDF release: A short history of celebrity

By Fred Inglis

Like it or hate it, megastar is among the dominant gains of recent life-and one of many least understood. Fred Inglis units out to right this challenge during this exciting and enlightening social historical past of recent superstar, from eighteenth-century London to contemporary Hollywood. Vividly written and brimming with interesting tales of figures whose lives mark vital moments within the heritage of big name, this Read more...

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Extra resources for A short history of celebrity

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I say “dangerous,” and it was. At such a time, footpads, cutpurses, rapists, whores, madmen, and drunks made up a plentiful proportion of the thronged streets, and respectable London could hardly avoid pursuing its business among all of them. But although riots broke out often enough to be considered normal—riots about bread prices,2 about the establishment 38 chapter 3 of turnpikes, against popery (the Gordon riots of 1780 when the soldiery killed 290 people and 25 looters were executed3), in derision of the rich and unpopular, even in exuberant support of popular heroes such as John Wilkes the radical, and Charles James Fox the libertarian member of Parliament, who could rally a mob in the street in minutes—the social order itself remained stable, only touched rhetorically by the revolution across the Channel.

When Garrick came onstage in certain of his very popular roles, the audiences claimed him for their own in excessive displays of enthusiasm and affection. At times, the same audiences would interrupt the dialogue from the boxes (a convention still exploited by the Crazy Gang at the London Victoria as late as the 1950s), and meanwhile anybody down in the pit believed himself free to shout interjections during the action. On a number of occasions on which the pit thought poorly of the play, they cheerfully caused it to be closed down, indicating their critical disapproval by smashing the gilt mirrors of the auditorium and pulling up the benches.

But envy is a tense, psychotic passion. It revolves through desire to fulfilment to disappointment to dislike. The great satisfaction is to see those who are enviable humiliated. This is a primary rhythm of celebrity, easy to see in the accelerated psychosis played out in Big Brother and suchlike. In the further galaxies of stardom, the psychosis has its way, no doubt, as psychoses will. But the earlier frames of feeling are still embedded in the new ones, and the quadruple frames of feeling as enumerated here are still detectable in the manufacture of today’s celebrities.

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