Ageing celebrities and ageing fans in popular media culture
19-20 May 2016 at Department of Media Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen.
We are proud to announce that the following keynotes are confirmed for the seminar:
Professor Matt Hills, Aberystwyth University, Wales.
Professor. C. Lee Harrington, Miami University, USA.
Reader, Dr. Deborah Jermyn, Roehampton University, England
Senior lecturer, Dr. Kirsty Fairclough-Isaacs, University of Salford, England.
Call for abstracts
There is increasing interest in celebrity and age within media studies, most recently represented by the edited volume Women, Celebrity and Cultures of Ageing. The same goes for age in fan studies, with the edited volume Ageing, Media and Culture (2015) devoting a few chapters to ageing and life course in fan culture. This seminar combines these two strands of research, with a focus on both female and male celebrities and fans. The seminar is dedicated to discussions of representations of and meanings related to ageing in contemporary celebrity and fan culture across a range of media, from fashion ads and tabloid magazines to music, film, television, social media, and other media platforms.
Ageing remains contentious in popular culture, with young stars being cast to play much older characters. The ageing female body is either contained or pathologized in audiovisual media, eloquently described by Vivian Sobchack in the late 1990s. Nowhere is ageism as prominent a logic as in media production. Celebrity culture is a culture of youth. Recently, however, movements have emerged that run counter to this pervasive notion of celebrities as young and beautiful. Much effort has been made by mature female actresses to publicly call attention to the lack of older female characters in film. Jane Fonda co-stars with Lily Tomlin and co-produces the Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie, which deals with women starting over post-divorce late in life and reinventing themselves as modern single women. Elderly celebrity, writer Joan Didion, was chosen as the face of Celine’s spring campaign of 2015, as was singer Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent.
Just as with celebrities, fan cultures are mostly considered to be teen or youth phenomena. However, an increasing number of mature adults and seniors are active members of fandoms, both online on social media platforms and as participants at fan conventions. Playfulness or excessive enthusiasm for a media product or celebrity are no longer seen as the exclusive property of the younger generations, but there is still a lack of knowledge about what happens when fans become parents and grandparents or when people become fans in later life. Similarly, we seek to understand the possibilities new media and platforms, such as Tumblr, offer fans and how social media encourage older people to perform fan practices. One mature fan writes in her Twitter bio: ‘Old enough to know better, old enough not to care.’ Finally, a range of television and film series have returned with updated versions of the original older shows (including Sherlock (2010-), Doctor Who (2005-), Twin Peaks (2016), X-Files (2016)), creating an opportunity for fans of the original series to engage on social media platforms and immerse themselves in the narratives once again. This seminar examines the role fandom plays in the life course of mature and elderly fans.
In summary, we hope to shed light on new tendencies related to ageing in celebrity and fan culture in popular and entertainment media by bringing together the two research traditions and the cultural spaces in which they overlap.
The seminar includes but is not limited to:
- Tabloid and celebrity media’s focus on age and ageing
- Representations of ageing celebrities at red carpet events
- Representations of ageing in popular media narratives
- The role of fandom for mature and ageing fans in online/offline fan culture
- Old stories, old audiences? Audiences for revived narratives such as Sherlock Holmes film and TV franchises, Star Trek, Doctor Who, the X-Files, Twin Peaks, etc.
- Gender studies in relation to ageing in celebrity culture and fan culture
- Genre and ageing: the action hero, ageing in comedy, etc.