We love celebrities. We copy their looks, aspire to their rich-and-famous lives, and relish the endless cycle of news (well, mostly gossip) about them churned out by the media. We want them in our lives. And for better or worse, they’re certainly there.
For more than a century, celebrities have gazed at us from magazines, newspapers, movie screens, television, and now from our social media. Whether Charlie Chaplin, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Elvis, or Beyoncé, we’ve loved them all.
Cultural historian Amy Henderson explores the celebrity culture phenomenon, from George Washington to Lady Gaga—from role models who conveyed national character to media creations that enthrall us (sometimes despite ourselves) with their personalities. Each generation of new technology created new star personalities, from recordings and silent films, through radio, Hollywood’s heyday, television, and today’s digital age. She examines how media “broadcast” a mainstream culture in the last century, and looks at the implications of today’s highly “narrowcast” media world. Participants will also join in some entertaining and informative fun.
Henderson is a cultural historian at the Portrait Gallery.