DISCUSS USING SPECIFIC EXAMPLES
I will be addressing the question, by focusing how identities are constructed by images formed by the media. We live in an age extensively affected by global media and celebrity culture, which has historically developed from the mid-Eighteenth Century. Referring to Andrew Spicer’s lecture on ‘Celebrity Culture and Stardom’, naming Lord Byron, that become: “…One of the great figures of British Romanticism together with William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Shelley and Keats.”
These celebrities, as well as artists and composers, became famous, more or less on their own steam, as they were exceptionally talented in their own field, considering the fact there was no media attention, as we know it.
I find it interesting to note that Mary Anne Evans, who lived much later, had to resort to using a pen name, to disguise her identity and wrote under the name, George Elliot. Apart from the fact that she would not have been taken seriously as a female writer, but she also wanted to challenge the existing stereotype of a women’s ability only to write simple and entertaining literature. I find it very ironic, that writing under a male pen name, was the only way she could express her thoughts and feelings, in those days. Unlike today, we find female celebrities often promoting their sometimes-doubtful talent, openly without any reservation in order to succeed in the industry.
By now, we are constantly reminded of radio, television and newspaper headlines and stories, as well as by recent technological expansion such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Without realizing, especially in the course of the last decade, the power of such media has had a profound influence on the construction of identities in today’s society. It is only natural that we feel close to some celebrities and often try to emulate them by dwelling on their experiences, hopes and dreams. In her article on media use in identity construction, Katherine Hamley state that:
‘Young people have such frequent access and an interest in the media, it is fair to say that their behavior and their sense of ‘self’ will have been influenced to some extent by what they see, read, hear or discover for themselves’ 2
Among a number of writers, such as Debra Grodin and Thomas R. Lindlof state:
‘…We have at our disposal an enormous array of possible identity models.’ 3
As individuals, young people tend to choose their role models most favorable qualities in order to emulate them as far as possible, as well as to satisfy their personal desires.
A fine example of this statement is the amazing career of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, simple known as Beyoncé (See figure 1)
‘Beyoncé is a successful, self-possessed black woman with a career, a family, a ton of money, a ridiculous body, a strong sense of self.’ 4
I find this description compelling, urging me to study her career in greater detail. By concentrating on certain aspects of her life, I plan to structure my discussion through debate: is Beyoncé an icon for females or is she not? What values does she embody? What aspirations does she hold for her audience? And so on. It can be argued, resulting from various statements and opinions that this is a contested area.
From her early teens, as a member of the R&B girl-group Destiny’s Child, (See figure 2) we have seen her steady rise to stardom. Along with her co-stars Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, and they became an instant success at promoting female empowerment in many ways.
I find this analysis, written by a guest contributor on the website The Feminist Wire particularly interesting to read as a response to the recent essay of Janell Hobson, The Rise of Beyoncé, The Fall of Lauryn Hill: A Tale of Two Tales, because it defines how Beyoncé was able to become a global success in a way that Lauryn Hill, The Fugees’ lead singer (see figure 3) failed to do so.