A recent item on the Popwatch blog caught my attention with an opening sentence that recapitulates a common view about celebrities:
“In an era when manufactured “celebrities” are as common as drab backyard sparrows, Eartha Kitt, who died on Christmas day of colon cancer at age 81, was the kind of strange, wondrous, exotic bird you lay eyes on once and never forget.”
Celebrities, now as in the past, are not common, and they are not drab–one of their main features tends to be attractiveness.
The author, it seems, is making a generic distinction: Eartha Kitt, goes the claim, was unlike any other celebrity, a rarity even in that rarefied company. And this got me thinking: what are the genres, or types, or cylon-style models, of celebrity?
The first that comes to my mind is the young, female pop star. Madonna (once upon a time), Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus. All balance innocence and lasciviousness in a way that awakens the interest of millions.
Or the young comedy male. Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Jim Carrey–all of whom balance awkwardness and a heart of gold to attract women and men alike.
Perhaps these shorthand sketches miss a lot more than they capture, but I think there is some truth to the idea that there are cultural niches that exist, and celebrities inhabit them for a time.