Welcome to another chapter of the Loki Year 2016! Sorry for the delay, but there’s been a lot these days, and it was hard to catch up. Today we’re going to explore what is celebrity culture from the point of view of Geek Anthropology of Loki’s Army and if it has something to do with Loki. We see celebrity culture as something related to the 21st century with phenomenons like the Beatles or the King. However, in some places celebrity culture goes back to the middle ages. In Japan, for example, the celebrities and fans were booming around Kabuki theaters. However, the type of celebrity culture we enjoy today is connected to technology and capitalism: we consume celebrity as much as we consume chocolate. Celebrities cannot exist without fans; that’s a reality. Thus, fans and celebrities are just heads and tails of the same coin: celebrities need fans to maintain their status, and fans need someone who makes them dream.
Celebrities today are democratized in a massive way. They are highly recognizable and influential public figures that can create trends and influence people in subtle and direct ways.
The word celebrity is used both for stars and other types of celebrities. However, there was a distinction once. The Stardom system was born when the media was able to share images. First came the newspaper, later the TV and now the Internet. While stars of the sixties enjoyed an almost god-like status, nowadays celebrities are less godly-like and more commodity-like. So, we can affirm that the status of celebrities has changed from gods to goods.
But, what is the connection with Loki? It looks like media is as tricky as Loki is: not gods but goods. And yet, celebrities can influence their followers significantly. If we take a look at Tom Hiddleston and his way into fame, we’ll see that it was Loki who boomed his status as a star of Hollywood. However, his image is a flickering one, since it depends on entirely on media exposure. Just like Darius the Great (c. 550-486 BC), the ruler of the Persian Empire! Darius realized that he needed to persuade his people to accept his ruling. The problem was that his Empire was huge and that the peoples he ruled had different languages and cultures. This diversity asked for something else: marketing. He had to come up with a media campaign that made him attractive to the various peoples he ruled. And so, he used sculptures to send his message.
Alexander the Great (356-323BC) also needed to use media to portray a good image, especially after the reduced Persepolis (Darius’s capital) into ashes. So, instead of using a logo, like Darius did through sculptures, he decided to use his face stamped on coins. A brilliant move, since whoever had money would see who ruled the show.
As technology improved, the way famous people portrayed themselves to their public changed. Moreover, newspaper and photography offered for the first time the means for people to become celebrities beyond the traditional local scope (well, unless you were a ruthless conqueror, that is.) To be present everywhere as Alexander wished is now a reality thanks to the Internet. Portraits are shared thousands of times on platforms like Tumblr through pictures or memes. In fact, portraits are a good way to “be in everybody’s pockets,” or in every single screen, since they create a false feeling of knowing and intimacy creating a parasocial relationship between the celebrity that appears in the portrait and the fan who consumes it.
Portraits are tricky like Loki is: they seem to be staring directly at you, your heartbeat rate might even increase, and your pupils might even dilate. Noticing the presence of images of celebrities virtually everywhere, makes people think that they are important especial people to be followed and imitated. They also become commodities that can be acquired, shared and disposed of (like Alexander’s coins). In the same way, Alexander’s face on coins was used both for acquiring goods and for social speech, nowadays the images of celebrities are used for the very same reasons. The only difference is that we do not acquire good with them, we acquire goods that they use or publicize that they do.
Before the 1980s, celebrities needed merits to become famous and to be able to appear in all media. Very much like Alexander the Great: celebrities need merits to become a great figure to be remembered through time. From ancient times to become known required merits. However, from the late 1980s and early 1990s, things changed: fame could be achieved without the need of merits. Fame could be reached by the mere and continuous appearance in the media. In fact, Hollywood has been changing its ways to create more disposable actors, performers that can be replaced easily. Thus, it is imperative for celebrities to have presence and to become indispensable and not replaceable, like Robert Downey Jr, aka Ironman.
Hence, media-driven celebrity demands a substantial presence across and in all media. When the celebrity stops being present, the celebrity stops being a celebrity. This means that there is an illusion that anyone could be a celebrity: anyone can be continuously online, right? However, since celebrities can be, in general, replaced by media in a blink of an eye, such status is but an unstable one. Other times, it’s fans that decide to stop sharing your portraits for whatever reasons. One example comes with Tom Hiddleston. His liaison with Taylor Swift has enraged a sector of his fans, and they have started to share him less and less on Tumblr. This means that celebrities, as products, as objects, are continuously competing for the consumer’s love. When their images change, the fanbase might react in a negative way.
Celebrities who are consistent with their public and private images are those who tend to have a longer-lasting fame status. A consistent celebrity is a trustworthy one. Fans who identify with celebrities want consistency because they discover characteristics inherent in themselves that are portrayed by the celebrity. In this sense, celebrities are mirrors in which to see oneself, or the desired self. When the consistency breaks or the mirror is not available anymore because of lack of presence in the media, most of the fans will look for anther more suitable mirror in which to see themselves reflected.
So what is a celebrity in a Loki sense? A celebrity is a meme that defines us. We use memes to explain to others our moods, our personalities, values, and foes. In short: they are a way of communication. Thus, celebrities are the social currency we use to define ourselves, explain others and engage in social speech.
Next: we’re reading We’re reading lessons 8 to 11 (Book 2) from the Gospel of Loki.Let’s get Loki!
What we know so far:
1. Loki Year 2016: the Intro + downloadable pdf: go here.
2. THOR, the movie.
3. Who is Loki?
4. Lokabrenna, let there be light!
5. Sif’s haircut.
6. The Avengers.
7. Modern Myths, Loki is a Geek and Thor is a Jock.
8. Loki is never fitting in…
9. Freyja’s Wedding.
10. Thor: The Dark World.
11. The worse environment of all.
12. Messing around.
13. Freyja’s necklace.
14. The Creation of the World.
15. Knowledge is power.
16. Loki lips are sealed…
17 to 21. Buildings and War.
22. Thinking about Murder.
23. The treasures of the Gods.
24. The dream Wizard.
25. Weddings and Fans.
26. Loki’s cute children.
27. The binding of Fenrir.
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