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Every day (almost every few hours), something resembling a scandal or controversy swirls in the media sphere. Entertainment news outlets feed off of and circulate stories that shock (as well as confirm) expectations. When it comes to popular culture, as we have been learning, such moments usually indicate that something important is at stake. The people that form popular culture are invested in the celebrity or action that the cultural industries have provided.
Pick a recent scandal or controversy related to a celebrity or influencer. Analyze the event through the themes you’ve encountered during the weeks on celebrity and influencers, while keeping in mind the core power relations we’ve been examining recently: race, gender, activism, trolling.
What are the key issues raised by this story? Why do you think it resonates so much with a pop culture audience? What issues around power and control over meaning are evident in this example?
Explore the different perspectives on the controversy: Who are the social actors involved in making the story stick?
Some other questions and prompts: How does it speak to the balance of industry needs with people’s need? What did the PR, management, or branding agency do to manage the crisis, and what did fans and audiences (and critics) have to say? If it involved a news agency, brand, or company, what can popular culture show us when it comes to professionalism and ethics?
Pick three readings from our semester so far to help you think through these issues. In addition, find at least two more academic or feature-length analyses (not just hot takes). Venues where one can find such things include The Cut, The Root, The Conversation, Atlantic, Jezebel, The New Yorker, Medium). The articles from these publications should be 1000 words or more (or three articles that are 750 words each, should you find it hard to locate sources). Five cited articles at very minimum (three from class, two from external sources (academic or feature-length popular media with critical analysis.)
Feel free to run your scandal choice by me if you’re not sure it’s controversial enough.
By recent, I mean within the last couple of years, but if it’s something that you found that really piqued your attention from before that time period, let me know.