The construction of identities in 21st-century celebrity culturegender, heteronormativity and postfeminism

Supervised by:
  1. María Pilar Cuder Domínguez Director

Defence university: Universidad de Huelva

Fecha de defensa: 25 September 2017

  1. María Belén Martín Lucas Chair
  2. María Auxiliadora Pérez Vides Secretary
  3. Libe García Zarranz Committee member

Type: Thesis


We live in a globalised world where the growing phenomenon over the last two decades of celebrity culture has been inextricably connected to the pervasiveness and influence of mass media. In this doctoral thesis on celebrity studies, I examine how the mass-mediated representation of celebrities constitutes mirrors of the workings of ideology, its practices and gender relations. The research corpus is formed by 5 celebrities: Mitey Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Ricky Martin, Robbie Williams and Sinéad O'Connor, whose ages range from the twenties to the fifties and who embody different genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations. They have been selected for their impact across the media and popular culture, and because, in covering a period from the late 1980s to the second decade of the 21“- century, the encoding of the visual-discursive simulation of these celebrities incorporates attributes of gender, race, age, sexual identity and ethnicity that allow us to examine the evolution and nuances of the mechanisms used to fabricate and mobilise their identities within dominant popular discourse. Hence, this is a qualitative study that contributes to highlighting and identifying the predominant techniques of constructing identities and bodies through the lens of queer and posthuman theories combined with critical discourse analysis by focusing on the ways the technologies of the body have mutated in the close analysis of the enactment of the aforementioned artists. Moreover, it aims to demonstrate that heteronormativity with its gender binaries and the precepts of hegemonic femininity and masculinity control the visual-discursive encoding of today's celebrity. As such, I explore the current materiality of the body derived from the updating of old mechanisms of production in the service of dominant ideology within the 21 “-century capitalist marketplace. This study also problematizes the intersection of gender, sexuality and race that are dependent on each other to materialise hierarchies amongst the individuals, particularly with the objective of normalising non-normative identities. The analysis is based on data extracted from these artists' music videos, performances, official websites, social media and interviews in an attempt to provide a deep, comprehensive analysis of the construction of their identities and h6w they negotiate them in the media. Additionally, this doctoral study is intended to offer an examination of these celebrities that does not succumb to offering a simplistic account of their representation in relation to binary divides, 'fins said, recent years have witnessed a gradual integration of a neoliberal postfeminism into media culture, by constructing a new female subjectivity based on sexual entrepreneurship, over- sexualisation and emphasis on their gendered marked body. This thesis also argues that whereas female celebrities mobilise their identities/bodies incorporating these heterononnative postfeminisl attributes, male celebrities fabricate their identities/bodies by using techniques aimed to market hegemonic masculinity. In other words, this research proves that sexual identity, gender and race have become commodities in the third millennium. Nevertheless, the corpus also includes a musician, the Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor, who is presented as a model of resistance against the fabrication of celebrities as object of consumption and the ubiquitous hyper-sexualisation of women in mainstream popular culture.