Case Study 4: Celebrity fatigue

Until quite recently we were unapologetically in love with our celebrities. They were the last elite standing.

Experts, academics, social elites, politicians, civil servants, artists, authors, intellectuals, all of these had fallen.

Celebrities seemed to rise inexorably, taking over TV journalism, magazines like Vanity Fair, the best seller list, marketing and even innovation.

And then trouble came even for them.

Madonna proved to be the poster-girl.

Asked to give a tribute to Aretha Franklin, she managed to talk almost exclusively about herself. This seems to capture celebrity as a self-absorbed, narcissistic mess, a creature of clueless privilege. The world was outraged.

Suddenly it was open season on the material girl. Matthew Dessem wrote a piece in Slate entitled “Madonna’s Eurovision Performance Somehow Fails to Solve Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Perfect.

Poor Gal Gadot is the new target of the anti-celebrity movement. She dared comfort the COVID world from the splendor of a well stocked home.

Clearly, Gadot walked right into it. “What,” she must have thought to herself, “could be wrong about joining together to sing a song with my friends?”

Well, nothing except that it made her look like a creature of clueless privilege.

This much is clear. Mapping the future is not just for politicians and the C-suite. Now now also a good idea for celebrities.

Here’s the long term “mapping” question?” Who will replace celebrities as our creatures of influence. And why are they losing altitude in the first place?

And here is the most recent piece on celebrity fatigue, appearing in on July 24:

Sigee, Rachael. 2020. “Is the Age of the Celebrity Over?”

Acknowledgements: I have chatted several times with Mauricio Mota about celebrity fatigue.

Published by Grant McCracken

I am an anthropologist who studies American culture. Some of my books: Dark Value, Culturematic, Chief Culture Officer and Transformations: identity construction in contemporary culture. I've taught at Harvard Business School and MIT. I am a self funding anthropologist. I spent half the year writing and half the year consulting.

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