Thursday, June 26, 2008

Can You Get a Grant for That?

European and American academics met Wednesday to examine society's fascination with "train-wreck" female celebrities, the Associated Press reports.

Topics included "Britney's Tears: The Abject Female Celebrity in Postemotional Society" and "Hooker, Victim and/or Doormat: Lindsay Lohan and the Culture of Celebrity Notoriety."

The one-day conference at the University of East Anglia was titled: "Going Cheap? Female celebrity in the tabloid, reality and scandal genres." It was organized by two professors in UEA’s School of Film and Television Studies.

One of the organizers, Dr. Su Holmes explained the lure of the tabloid celebrity. "First, it reflects on the wider desire to see celebrities 'stripped bare' - as 'damaged', more 'ordinary', and in some ways, apparently more 'real'. This might be cast as a kind of democratisation of the relationship between audience and celebrity, or at least a means of venting public frustration with inequalities in wealth, privilege etc."

If you'd like more analysis of Brittney Spears in a post feminist context, you can read more about this event at The Huffington Post.

Girls On Film - Duran Duran

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Girl Named Elvis

The UPI reports that a Swedish couple was not permitted to give their daughter the first name of their choice-- Elvis.

They felt the name was "pretty and gender neutral." But the Swedish National Tax Board disagreed.

I don't know how popular a name Elvis is in Sweden. Apparently not particularly so for girls at any rate.

It's not all that common here either. As I noted in my book The Elvis Impersonation Kit:

In 1935, the year Elvis Presley was born, "Elvis" was the 798th most popular name for boys in the country. (About .006% of the male population were Elvises.) It was only slightly more popular than Chuck (as its own name, not short for Charles) and Errol but less popular than Elwyn, Denzil, Edsel and Aloysius.

In 1977, the year of Elvis's death, the name had moved up to #598 in popularity (Between Buddy and Torrey). About .011% of the male children born in 1977 were Elvises. In 2004, it was the 694th most popular baby boy's name.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Ballad of Jim and Tammy

No examination of the topic of Schadenfreude would be complete without a generous helping of televangelist scandals including "the superbowl of televangelist scandals": The Jim Bakker trial of the late 1980s.

There is nothing people enjoy more than a real life soap opera, and this one had everything. The main characters had a cartoonish quality to begin with, his wife Tammy Faye wore unintentionally comical makeup, and both spoke with soft voices and permanent smiles. There were allegations of sexual impropriety, enough showy wealth to make Robin Leach (the host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) blush, and behind the scenes machinations by rival television ministers.

What I didn't know when I wrote the book was that it also had a theme song. The Ballad of Jim and Tammy, recorded by none other than Tammy Faye. You can listen to it courtesy of WFMU. Enjoy.