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OMG!!!! DID YOU HEAR ABOUT LINDSAY/BRITNEY/MILEY/ANGELINA?

Popular wisdom and Yahoo Ask! User theone78 maintain that gossip is inherent to women, something inherent.  Curious user honeybee posted on Yahoo’s general forum for knowledge asking “ Why do women love to talk & gossip? I’m one of them so no judging here.”   The answer she received from theone78, whose self-stated source is an “Associate Degree—In Social Behavior Science” was not an unheard of.

“ It’s the way you girls are made…more social and emotional!! …. It has more to do with out genetic structure/makeup of survival. Gossiping however is not being to control your tongue which BTW takes discipline.” (theone78) This prominent perception (whether or not the somewhat dubious science checks out) has lead for the industry of celebrity gossip to become immensely popular.

Gossip has been a widely researched subject, and “ the sheer bulk of five centuries commentary on gossip suggests a phenomenon worth taking seriously (Spacks 1985: 26) Most of this discussion of gossip has been decidedly negative, with potentially positive elements being acknowledged rarely.  (Spacks 1985: 26)  There are ethical questions inherent in gossip relating to its position on the “borderline” between public and private (Spacks 1985: 262; Podneicks 2008: 56). It is clear that sites like Jezebel push this line, forcing private information of celebrities and even self selecting contributors into a more public forum.  Like the snarky attitude of Jezebel, gossip draws heavily upon humor. (Podniecks 2008:57)  Gossiping is a performance, meant to create a reaction, whether of amusement or disgust, from the audience.  (Podneicks 2008: 57). When it is “framed by humor gossip ‘rises above its pettiness and viciousness’ and is redemptive” (Podneicks 2008: 57).

While gossip was in previous era was limited to the exchange of information about personal acquaintances, celebrity gossip has supplanted that. (Feasy 2008:693)  This is a relatively new phenomenon, and has been shaped by and defined a new definition of celebrity.  From Louella Parsons, the first gossip columnist to todays gossip blogs, the discipline has changed (Fairclough 2008) The growth of celebrity has given a consequence free way to share information about others, a process which gains the sharer social capital (Feasy 2008: 690). Since it does not involve personal acquaintances, gossip is not as problematic (Feasy 2008: 690). Initially, the idea of nationally knows stars came to fruition with the era of the powerful movie studios (Fairclough 2008). Monolithic, the studios were able to control the images of stars with a heavy hand (Fairclough 2008).  However, the invention of the zoom lens changed that (Fairclough 2008). Salacious pictures of Elizabeth Taylor’s extramarital affair caught from a distance breeched a new form of celebrity information(Podnieks 2009: 56). Now, any aspect of a celebrity’s life, especially their faults and private shames, were fair game (Podnieks 2009: 56). Having a taste of something more,  people were not longer satiated by the static stupid images (Podniek 2009: 56).

Feasy’s 2008 study group of readers of heat, a British gossip magazine, revealed that the consumption of celebrity gossip is not the sole voyeurism traditionally associated with it. In fact, women like to read the information for the main purpose of sharing it with others (Feasy 2008: 693). Knowing this information gives people a desirable expertise.   It allows them to share it with others to create a sense of community. There is also a desirability to be the first to obtain this information, expressed by Feasy’s study participants (Feasy 2008:691). While this is not reflected on Jezebel itself, this desire for primacy is the meaning of Gawker.com’s tagline “Tomorrows News. Today.”  There is a certain appeal to be the first of a social group to know something, to even, as Gawker suggests, be a whole day ahead.

Additionally, the presentation of celebrity flaws and personal news creates what  Feasy identifies as a double edged sword (Feasy 2008: 696) Women  feel validated for the own imperfections, comforted by the normalcy of celebrities. (Feasy 2008: 695) However, women also feel a sense of guilt for intruding and pointing out people’s weaker moments, even if they are in the public eye (Feasy 2008:696)  The popularity and social benefits of celebrity gossip have embedded it in popular culture. With the digital age, celebrity blogging has grown.  Check out the next post for more on that!

Sources:

Fairclough, Kirsty. “Fame is a Losing Game: Celebrity Gossip Blogging. Bitch Culture, and Post Feminism.” Genders. 48 (2008) Web. 18 April 2012. <http://www.genders.org/g48/g48_fairclough.html>

Feasy, Rebecca. “Reading heat: The Meanings and Pleasures of Star Fashions and Celebrity Gossip.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 22 5 (2010): 687-699

Honeybee, and Theone78. “Why Do Women Love to Talk & Gossip?” Yahoo! Ask. Yahoo!, 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. <http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110428163842AA9TcJ0>.

Podnieks, Elizabeth. “Celebrity Bio Blogs: Hagiography, Pathography and Perez Hilton.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 24 1 (2009): 53-73.

Spacks, Patrica. Gossip. New York: Knopf, 1985. Print

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About mollyrfriedman

Junior. Sociology and Communications: Media and Society Major . I'm interested in social issues. This includes pointing these out in popular culture, much to the chagrin of those who watch movies and tv with me.

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