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By Fred Inglis

Like it or hate it, star is among the dominant gains of contemporary life-and one of many least understood. Fred Inglis units out to right this challenge during this interesting and enlightening social historical past of contemporary famous person, from eighteenth-century London to latest Hollywood. Vividly written and brimming with interesting tales of figures whose lives mark very important moments within the heritage of superstar, this Read more...

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Theatre is easy to add to film and television by way of grasping that celebrity, if not under that name, has been with us for 250 years. The theatre, however, did not bring off the trick by itself. The fine simplicity of its workings requires at least softening in its outlines by a brief attention given to other manifestations of the new consumerism. The industrialisation of leisure, which is to say the shaping and organisation of the personal disburdening of work and its resulting freedoms (none more pleasurable than “free time” itself ), demanded the invention of new daily routines and the spaces within which to live them out.

What they did then was to plot the manifold matrix of emotion, evaluation, reflection, and (doubtful) intention which is the moral foundation of the present day. The world of personal therapy, of the admirably careful protection of small children, of domestic self-analysis and family democracy,19 was founded then. As far as the confection of celebrity was concerned, this radical tendency may be said to have done three things. It made the criterion of worthwhileness the private reason; intimacy became the space of judgement.

This gives birth to a familiar figure in our time which is the educated, intelligent person withdrawn from all social contact and commitment, frozen in a fearful condition of nonfeeling, locked into inaction. When the same condition repeats itself in a sensibility with fewer intellectual resources and in a person without even a job to provide a daily patterning of time, then the frozen sensibility may well break out into violent rages or uncontrolled hilarity precisely to force feeling of some kind into its veins.

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