The “star phenomenon” began in theatrical advertising of certain actors’ names in the 1820s. It was not immediately transferred to Hollywood, nor to the many other film industries developing in parallel across the glove. Hollywood studios at first, from about 1909 to 1914, ignored “stars” – actors in whose offscreen lifestyle and personalities audiences demonstrated a particular interest. This was partly because of the costs involved in “manufacturing stardom” on a scale which the studies could translate into measureable box-office revenue, and for fear of the power which stars might then wield.
Stars need all kinds of resources lavished on their construction such as privileged access to screen and narrative space, to lighting, to the care of costumers, make-up workers, voice coaches, personal trainers, etc. , as well as to audience interest through previews, supply of publicity materials, etc. Skillful casting is also important, though rarely discussed in work on stars, perhaps because it is seen to detract from the star’s own intentions in a performance. Key career decisions involve a star’s choice of casting agency or the choices made by a particular film’s casting director.
Once established, the star system worked lucratively for the studios. Stars were used as part of the studio’s “branding” or promise of certain kinds of narrative and production values. They were useful in “differentiating” studios’ films. Stars were literally part of the studio’s capital, like plant and equipment, and could be traded as such. James Stewart, making an interesting comparison with sports celebrities, said once “Your studio could trade you around like ball player like when I was traded once to Universal for the use of their back lot for three weeks.
” Stars’ large salaries, said to be due to nebulous qualities such as “talent” or “charisma”, worked to negate the powers of acting unions, who might otherwise have been able to calculate acting labor and ask for more equal distribution of profits (Branston and Stafford 2003). And stars have always functioned as a key part of Hollywood’s relationship to broader capitalist structures. In the 1930s, for example, over-production of manufactured goods had reached crisis point in North America, and the large banks funding Hollywood sought its help in shifting goods from warehouses to consumers.
In addition to this, the celebrity is part of the public sphere, essentially an actor or, to use Robert Altman’s 1992 film characterization of Hollywood denizens, a “player. ” In the contemporary public sphere, divisions exist between different types of players: politicians are made to seem distinctly different from entertainment figures; businesspeople are distinguished from sports stars. And yet in the mediated representation of this panoply of players, they begin to blend together.
Film stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger share the stage with politicians like George Bush; Gorbachev appears in a film by Wenders; Michael Jackson hangs out on the White House lawn with Ronald Reagan; Nelson Mandela fills an entire issue of Vogue. The celebrity is a category that identifies these slippages in identification and differentiation. Leadership, a concept that is often used to provide a definitional distance from vulgarity of celebrity status, provides the last discursive location for understanding the public individual.
The argument I want to advance here is that in contemporary culture, there is a convergence in the source of power between the political leader and other forms of celebrity. Both are forms of subjectivity that are sanctioned by the culture and enter the symbolic realm of providing meaning and significance for the culture. The categorical distinction of forms of power is dissolving in favor of a unified system of celebrity status, in which the sanctioning of power is based on similar emotive and irrational, yet culturally deeply embedded, sentiments (Marshall 1997).
Of course, depending on the type of media where actors and actresses appear, their power and charisma varies. In addition to this, depending on the type of media used, individual’s star quality or qualities of being a celebrity varies. On television, an individual can become a star without ceasing to be his or her anonymous self, because the medium celebrates innocuous, domestic normality. Once on the “The Tonight Show” Jack Paar maddened the studio audience by attentively quizzing one of its number and ignoring Cary Grant, who’d been planted in the adjoining seats.
As well as a practical joke, this was a boast of television’s license to bestow celebrity on those it promiscuously or fortuitously favors. But the medium can just as easily rescind that celebrity. Obsolescence is built into the television star, as it is into the sets themselves: hence those mournful commercials for American Express in which the celebrities of yesteryear- the man who lent his croaky voice to Bugs Bunny or a candidate for the Vice-Presidency in 1964- laud the company’s card, which restores to them an identity and a televisibility they’d forfeited.
The game show contestants experience this brief tenure of television celebrity- Warhol’s fifteen minutes- at its most accelerated. But in order to quality for it, they have to surrender themselves to the medium. Their only way of winning games is to abase themselves, feigning hysteria on “The Price is Right,” exchanging sordid confidences on “The Newlywed Game,” incompetently acting out inane charades on Bruce Forsyth’s “Generation Game. ” The cruelest of the games is “The Gong Show,” where one’s span of celebrity may not even extend to fifteen seconds.
More or less, untalented contestants sing, dance, juggle or fiddle until the inevitable gong sends them back to nonentity. For some, the gong supervenes immediately. They’ve been warned this will happen, and coached to disappear with dignity, but are expected to go through with their act all the same and suffer their condemnation. Even a few seconds of television fame is worth the price of one’s self-esteem. The show pretends to be a talent quest, but is a smirking parody of that. The hosts on the game shows are, for similar reasons, parodies of geniality.
A host soothes his guests and smoothes obstacles out of their way. But in homage to Groucho, the comperes subject their victims to a ritual humiliation, and their patter keeps the game-players throughout flinching and ill-at-ease (Conrad 1982). Television is good but may not be ideal for preserving important works. On the other hand, a good film can be shown anywhere in the world where there is an audience. Furthermore, the cinema will turn actors and actresses into stars. There are many well-known television actors and actresses, but they have no international fame like their big-screen counterparts.
Films together with film magazines contribute directly to the formation of a star system and its attendant mythology. The stars perceived themselves to be, and were in turn also used as, icons for a modern lifestyle, especially fashion (Zhang 2005). They are given greater chances to achieve or receive international awards and become known not only in a particular state but to the whole world, unlike in the case of television stars. Those famous actors who appeared on television ten years ago have now vanished due either to lot or disintegrated videotape or a lack of interest by the contemporary audience.
In Africa, there was a necessity to build more cinema theaters, instead of enforcing further use of television, because it was helping them to maintain a viable film industry. In Iran, they have more than 150 cinema houses. Their industry if progressing because they have a loyal audience who make it possible to recuperate money invested in production, which in turn is invested in the making of new films (Ukadike 2002). As a whole, it can be said that fame in cinema is more lasting than fame in television.
In addition to this, the stars or celebrities appearing on cinemas rather than on televisions are the ones who are more favored by producers and stockholders. Moreover, they are preferred than the television stars to be used in magazines, especially if it is an international magazine. As such, the lifestyle of actors and actresses in cinemas are greater than those who only appear in television shows. The cinema industry as well as its actors and actresses are greatly favored and nowadays, more specifically preferred by a good number of the countries.
Bibliography BRANSTON, GILL and STAFFORD, ROY, The Media Student’s Book (USA: Routledge, 2003). CONRAD, PETER, Television (USA: Routledge, 1983). MARSHALL, P. DAVID, Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture (Minneapolis: Regents of the University of Minnesota, 1997). UKADIKE, NWACHUKWU FRANK, Questioning African Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002). ZHANG, ZHEN, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen (London: University of Chicago Press, 2005).