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This Blog is Ending… But Social Media is Just Heating Up!

It is only after thoroughly analyzing the part that any conclusions about Jezebel can be drawn. It is clear that Nick Denton’s vision for Gawker media run’s through Jezebel’s core.  It is a magazine that knows its audience, and knows how to attract them. It does this through selective content, which parallels and aggregates other popular forms. It is part celebrity blog, part fashion blog, part feminist blog, and draws upon the appealing and crucial elements of all of them.  It also draws upon a rich history of women’s media, which blossomed creatively in an era of oppression. Jezebel is a new form of women’s media; in a new media for a savvier, and more well educated audience then some other forms of women’s media. This helps account for its differences, but acknowledges its similarities.  Jezebel defines itself by its critical voice, an inheritance from its older brother, Gawker.com. Even though Jezebel is “for women,” it has many similarities to Gawker. Throughout the blog, examples from Gawker that made pieces of Jezebel more salient, such as the idea of timeliness and Gawker’s transparency about its use of videos to draw attention.  Jezebel is framed by the taboo-ness of its name, which projects the type of image they want to craft.

While the issue of Jezebel’s feminism is inconclusive, it is undeniable the feminist strains it has. This is especially evident in its coverage of both personal stories and political/social narratives. However, it draws a closer comparison to other forms of digital media with its fashion and celebrity coverage. The cute videos are an Internet staple, and as the science shows, are guaranteed to draw interest.

Jezebel is the snarky girl in the friend group who eggs others on from the back corner.  She knows when to calm down enough to be liked, and occasionally causes a stir. After all Jezebel has been the part of national news and critiques, such as with the Redbook corner. But for the most part she just cleverly spars, talking over the television so that her commentary becomes a part of what the reader/watcher sees.

Armchair Analysts: Jezebel and Inaction

After breaking down the pieces of Jezebel, it is still hard to draw full conclusions about how it is a women’s blog.  One of the unclear pieces is if Jezebel fits inside the category of a feminist blog.   There are many undeniable parallels in goals and content. However, where Jezebel falls short is it full commitment to political activism. In her piece analyzing Feministing, Moswel discusses the activism built into the site. (2008) However, in Jezebel, the topics are too varied to really stir activism, but err more on the side of social critique. Jezebel writers are the armchair anthropologists of the digital age, sitting on chairs and jotting down notes on what they observe and hypothesize.  To truly be feminist, Jezebel would need to push beyond just observance to ask readers how they are going to take action against what has been elucidated by the writers of Jezebel.  In a similar way, Jezebel tries so hard to critique the magazine industry in their manifesto. Yet, with Nick Denton’s goals of creating the pixilated Conde Nast, they cannot help but fall into many of the same patterns.  The rhetoric penned by inaugural editor Anna North has cooled. In an interview with Madame Nior, popular current (and newer) writer Dodai Stewart reacts strangely, and almost in a coached fashion to this very question about magazine disapproval.

“Jezebel is not anti-magazine, we are anti-cover lies, anti-unrealistic Photoshop and anti-exclusionary content — whether it be targeting only white people, only thin people or only rich people. Personally, I love print…. But many mainstream ladymags are disappointing.”

But for as much of a fight that Jezebel puts against mainstream magazines, its content falls into many of the same patterns. There is the celebrity gossip, the analysis of who wore what, splashed with human-interest pieces. What sets Jezebel apart is its acidic tongue, but even that seems to fall short of really piercing celebrity culture.  Of course, Jezebel has made it clear that they do not deal in cruelty, Holmes pointing out in interviews that they never mention weight. (Johnson 2007) Really, in these areas they are treading into worn territory. Perhaps this is because their manifesto and begging was so focused on the fashion piece, that they forgot to really establish their goals for the rest, and fell fumbling into patterns of puppies and dresses.

However, this so far may be selling Jezebel short. One area they excel in is their attention to women’s issue. They have exhaustive coverage of LGBT issues, sexual health, reproductive rights and more. However, none of this coverage comes with the real impetuous towards change, only the passive resignation.

Sources:

Johnson, Steve. “Jezebel: A Few words with the editor [Chicago Edition].” The Chicago Tribune.25 July 2007: Web. <22 Mar. 2012 < http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-07-25/features/0707230542_1_jezebel-gawker-media-celebrity&gt;

Stodghill, Alexis. “Black Beauty With Buzz- Dodai Stewart, Editor at Jezebel.com.” Madame Noire. Moguldom Media Group, 18 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://madamenoire.com/78847/black-beauty-with-buzz-dodai-stewart-editor-at-jezebel-com/&gt;.

Fashion Blogging

Tied with the coverage of celebrities is the coverage of fashion on Jezebel. Its manifesto declared Jezebel as an alternate to the fashion-heavy women’s magazine industry set Jezebel up to be a critique of fashion. However, looking at the fashion tag shows that this has mostly devolved to reviews: the fashion industry,  celebrity fashion  and products by Jezebel writers.

Fashion blogging has become a major factor in the industry. While at first, fashion was resistant to embrace social media, companies themselves are now  using it in addition to acknowledging the influence of independent fashion bloggers.( Amed 2011) An article for Women’s Wear Daily‘s website explains that there are  two million fashion and shopping focused blogs, many with linked to similar products available for purchase embedded in their site (Cochoran 2006).  The influence of digital fashion critiques is forcing fashion institutions to change, and involve a more democratic process of inclusion (Cochocran 2006). While fashion was once a “dictatorship” the growth of the fashion blog, and its critiques of the fashion world have forced a type of transparency on the industry, forcing them to involve regular citizens in their decision (Cochoran 2006). Industry giant/PR Rep Kelly Cutrone commented to the New York Times that  “Do I think, as a publicist, that I now have to have my eye on some kid who’s writing a blog in Oklahoma as much as I do on an editor from Vogue? Absolutely. Because once they write something on the Internet, it’s never coming down. And it’s the first thing a designer is going to see. (Wilson 2009)

This change is infiltrating long-standing bastions of the fashion industry.  Wilson’s 2009 New York Times article about the changes in the industry noted that “Jezebel.com (a saucy blog that includes coverage of fashion) shot ahead of Style.com (the Condé Nast fashion site) for the first time this fall with more than a half-million visitors” (Wilson 2009).The attention given to a wider variety of designers, such as the detailing in Jezebel’s “Rag Trade.”

Similar to “Dirt Bag,” but focused on the fashion industry, “Rag Trade” reflects both caused the increased humanization and celebrity of industry giants, and increased the name and coverage of smaller scale designers. These changes, wrought by Jezebel and other online fashion blogs have caused a more macro examination and restructuring of the industry. A recent story on Jezebel discussed changes in America’s Next Top Model, a show that has long been merging the world of fashion with the American people.  (Stewart 2012) Tyra Banks, show star/producer has fired long standing judges and creative director, to take the show in a more digital/ online directions. (Stewart 2012) She is currently courting BryanBoy, one of the most popular fashion bloggers to become a part of the show. (Stewart 2012) Bryanboy is so influential that in 2008, Marc Jacobs named a purse in his collection after the blogger. (Wilson 2009)

In “Rag Trade” Jezebel also covers the gossip of the industry, mentioning not just the design changes but inner lives of the designers. Social media has become a major player in perpetuating rumors about the fashion industry. (Amed 2011)This reflects the trends of celebrity gossip, but extended to the names of the fashion industry. What is interesting to note about this section is that it differs from the others in that it assumes baseline knowledge of the players in the fashion industry, and does not just draw upon popular culture, like “Dirt Bag.”

Another element that reflects celebrity trends is Jezebel’s coverage of celebrity fashion at red carpet events in a feature called “Good/Bad/Ugly.” In this feature, pictures of celebrity outfits at red carpet events are shown, with commentary. This dissection of celebrity fashion is a part of the fashion blogging trend, which magazines have had difficulty adjusting to. (Wilson 2009) The analysis of celebrity fashion can have multiple functions. In Feasy’s study of heat readers (talked about more in this post) the women described why they enjoyed the fashion section of the magazine.( Feasy 2009: 693-696)  For some, they liked both the inspiration of the style, but also the confidence it gave them to try off new styles after feeling validated by seeing a certain look on a celebrity. (Feasy 2009: 694) Most magazines have launched digital components, which readers enjoy due to their interactive and search features, which allow them to tailor the content the consume. (Inghanm and Weadon 2008: 218These online pieces are able to be more in depth then the virtual pieces.  (Ingham and Weadon 2008:217)

The fashion industry is being changed by social media, but is still managing to maintain its gendered identity. Fashion blogs merge the celebrity, gossip and fashion elements, whether fashion is the main focus or one element of a larger site.

Sources

Ahmed, Irman. “Fashion 2.0 | Fashion PR in the Digital Age | BoF – The Business of Fashion.” Fashion 2.0. Business of Fashion, 5 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.businessoffashion.com/2011/04/fashion-2-0-fashion-pr-in-the-digital-age.html&gt;.

Corcoran, Cate T. “The Blogs That Took Over the Tents.” WWD. Women’s Wear Daily, 6 Feb. 2006. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/the-blogs-that-took-over-the-tents-547153?full=true&gt;.

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

Ingham, Deena, and Alexis Weedon. “Time Well Spent: The Magazine Publishing Industry’s Online Niche.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 14 2 (2008): 205-20. Print.

Stewart, Dodai. “Tyra the Tyrant Has Fired Mr. Jay, Miss J and Nigel Barker from ANTM.” Jezebel. Jezebel, 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5903702/tyra-the-tyrant-has-fired-mr-jay-miss-j-and-nigel-barker-from-antm?tag=america.s-next-top-model&gt;.

Wilson, Eric. “Bloggers Crash Fashion’s Front Row.” The New York Times 27 Dec. 2009, New York ed., Style sec.: ST1. Print.

Perez and More: Celebrity Gossip Blogs

There are hundreds of celebrity gossip blogs, providing a way for the average citizen to expressing feelings about celebrities and even establish celebrity of their own(Podnieks 2009: 53).  Celebrity culture has been altered by the gossip blog, becoming a core part and gaining prominence over traditional gossip outlets. (Fairclough 2008)  This blogs “ exert a considerable influence on the way that celebrities are mediated in a contemporary media culture (Fairclough 2008) Instead of a passive consumer or a third party source, “ today, the gossip blogger becomes both the producer and consumer of the celebrity, offering a route through which to deconstruct the celebrity image, while also contributing to, and even reshaping its cultural connotations. (Fairclough 2008) Part of what is unique about these digital gossips is that, unlike magazines, they are not beholden to any journalistic standards (Fairclough 2008.) It is practice, like Jezebel to report unsubstantiated rumors. There is one segment called Blind Items, where they list rumors about celebrities, leaving out their names and allowing commentators to discuss their guesses.  The lack of journalistic objectivity also increases the involvement of commentary, reflecting personal beliefs in the depiction of others (Podnieks 2009:63). For Jezebel, this means they do not just report news, but comment in a way that is shaped that their declare goals and feminist tendencies.  This looser structure also allows for a stronger involvement from readers, who contribute content and opinion. (Podniecks 2009: 65) This engages readers of gossip blogs in a process of sharing and group blogging that make it socially appealing (Podniecks 2009: 65)

These celebrity blogs have also been a product and contributor to the growth of what Fairclough calls “Bitch” culture. (2008) Fairclough’s description of Bitch culture- acerbic and terribly clever- resonates with the description of Jezebel’s snark. (2008) Fairclough’s description of a celebrity blogger matches some of the phrases used to describe Jezebel  (like here)  “ outspoken, flout codes of courtesy and are fiercely opinionated” (Fairclough 2008) Ironically, against its manifesto, Jezebel does engage in the micro level criticism of female celebrities, which is a trademark of the modern attitude towards female celebrities in gossip blogs in these “Bitchy” discussion.   These celebrity’s blogs offer cutting remarks to critique celebrities. (Fairclough 2008) However liberal Jezebel claims to be, they are policing social norms by calling celebrities (and others) out on their social deviance.  With this bitch culture, celebrities are often called out for being “train wrecks” and carefully scrutinized.  A recent headline about Kim Kardashian illustrates this bitch culture, prefacing an article about her response to critiques by actor Jon Hamm by saying “Stupid Person Responds Stupidly to Jon Hamm Calling Her Stupid” (Beckman 2012).

However, celebrity bloggers need to be careful before going too far down the path of negativity. Perhaps the most famous celebrity blogger si the self-appointed “Queen” of gossip- Perez Hilton.  Hilton is widely read, and focuses on the details of celebrity lives. He built his reputation based on the sharpest of the “Bitch” media voices (Fairclough 2008). Perez went further then Jezebel ever has, editing photos to show penises and drugs on celebrity faces and calling them cruel nicknames. However, after the rash of gay teen suicide, Perez had a change of heart about his cruelty and declared that he could not fight bullying while being a self-described bully. Since then, Perez has focused on creating a more positive image.  He announced the change on Ellen DeGeneres show, and then posted this YouTube video.  So far, Jezebel has weathered most of their storms without major change. It will be interesting to see in the future if Jezebel follows in Perez’s footsteps and tones down their social critique.

Sources:

Beckman, Leah. “Stupid Person Responds Stupidly to Jon Hamm For Calling Her Stupid.” Jezebel. Gawker Media, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5892663/stupid-person-responds-stupidly-to-jon-hamm-for-calling-her-stupid?tag=kim-kardashian&gt;.

Dobrow, Larry. “Lets Hear It for Women Who Suffer No Fools.” Ad Age Media Works. 13 March 2008. Web.  20 March 2012 < http://adage.com/article/mediaworks/hear-women-suffer-fools/125671/>

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&gt;

Hilton, Perez. “I’m Going To Be Doing Things Differently.” YouTube. YouTube, 13 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glRZpHuGj6Q&gt;

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

http://perezhilton.com/

Wait, so can you clarify what this is about?

Through every medium there are publications meant to appeal to women, from the thick flimsy Fabio covered paperback of the grocery store to the slick colorful pages of Ladies Home Journal.  With the expansion of the Internet, Jezebel.com has worked to establish itself as a “women’s blog.”    However, the newness of the Internet makes this distinction lack a great deal of clarity, as there is no precedent of standard to understand what that distinction means.  This entails analyzing its part in Gawker media, its structure and tone, and the different aspects of its tagline “ Celebrity, Sex and Fashion For Women. Without Airbrushing.”

In order to understand what the vague term “ a women’s blog” means, the different aspects of Jezebel.com must be pulled apart and analyzed, in order to create a more understandable whole.  Without understanding the components and context of the site, there is no way to understand the impact and meaning of the site itself.   An important part of the context of Jezebel is its part in Gawker media. Like Jezebel, each Gawker media blog has been successful by micro targeting its content to a specific segment of the population.  It is in alignment with this business model that Jezebel has come into play. It is important, especially given the distinctive tone of Gawker works to analyze how Jezebel fits within these works. It is also important to frame Jezebel within the history of female-targeted works in different media forms, and how it has taken on the mantel of this genre for the digital age.

Jezebel has also been called a feminist blog, in almost every description but their own. Since feminism is such a loaded word, this distinction is important. In order to determine if Jezebel is a feminist site, it is important to understand about feminism more broadly and specifically its expansion into the digital world.

The different elements of the tagline also indicate how Jezebel might break down how it is a “women’s blog.” Picking these topics could be no accident, and looking at each of them and their digital history could unlock what Jezebel means.  Celebrities, including gossip and gossip blogs are a flourishing element of the Internet and integral to Jezebel.com.  With any blog associated with Feminism comes a certain degree of sex, and for Jezebel, this is expanded to also include other aspects of sexuality. Contextualizing this and comparing it with feminist websites can clarify the importance of this part. While the fashion element of Jezebel is less obvious, further analysis can show why this was important enough to be included in the tagline.  Additionally, the tagline could be amended to include a fourth category, especially aimed at tugging women’s heartstrings. This is cute animal and baby videos, labeled “aww” and “squee” to replicate the reaction to watching these clips. How these different pieces all fit together is the answer to understanding Jezebel, and figuring out what it means for digital media