Stardom, Celebrity, Fame and Narrative

Posted on April 8, 2013
Filed Under Culture, Films, People | Leave a Comment

I’ve often wondered about Jennifer Aniston’s stardom. Here’s an actress who’s become a star of sorts despite her middle-of-the-road looks and just-average acting abilities. After the demise of “Friends,” she went on to star in a host of comedies, most of which — because of her co-stars or director or a good script — have made money (“Horrible Bosses,” “The Switch,” “The Bounty Hunter,” “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Marley & Me,” “The Break-Up” and even “Friends with Money”).

Aniston — by herself — is not blockbuster material. But there she is: In movie after movie and on one supermarket tabloid after another. How does she do it? Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air” asked just that question of guest Ty Burr, who wrote 2012’s “Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame.” Gross also wondered why she kept seeing Aniston on the cover of so many tabloids so much of the time: “It’s not like — how many years has it been since ‘Friends’? What is that fame, what is that interest still based on?”

Burr’s answer: “Don’t you understand? That’s her movie now. That’s where her narrative is. You know, it almost helps to think of each star as a narrative, as an idea, and their movies are and their other entertainment is where they act that idea of who they are out. And … Aniston built up a persona – consciously or not – on ‘Friends’ and then after ‘Friends’ in the gossip sphere with all of her various melodramas. And as she’s made fewer and fewer movies, that narrative just hops over to the gossip sphere and the tabloid magazines and that’s where the people who are fans of her – or fans of that narrative – that’s where they follow that narrative, that’s where that show is. That’s where the Jennifer Aniston show is now. It’s not on TV. It’s not on the movie screen. It’s over in this other form of entertainment that, again, probably doesn’t have a lot to do with actual day to day reality.”

OK, got it. Myth, narrative, celebrity in the 21st century.

Read the complete transcript here


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