New book chapter: ‘With and Between You All’: Celebrity Status, User-Audience Networks, and Representative Claims in Emma Watson’s Feminist Politics

I am pleased to share that I have a book chapter, written with Andrew Chadwick, forthcoming in the third volume of Rebecca Lind’s series Produsing Theory in a Digital World. This series examines how theory can help us illuminate the connections between audience, content, and production in a digital world. Our chapter explores this in an area where audiences are key, celebrity activism, taking Emma Watson’s feminist advocacy as a curious case.

Watson is part of a long history of celebrity collaboration with the UN, making international headlines when she launched UN Women’s HeForShe campaign back in 2014. But Watson doesn’t just use institutional platforms to promote feminist campaigns: she has, and creates, her own. When she launched a feminist book club and discussion forum on the Goodreads website in 2016 (Our Shared Shelf), Watson shared that she would ‘love for this to grow into an open discussion with and between you all’. But Watson is a movie star with over 50 million followers on Instagram, and while social media is associated with greater openness and interactivity celebrity status has long been theorised as a hierarchy based (in part) on distance. We argue that her description of Our Shared Shelf as a space for discussion ‘with and between you all’ is just one example of the rhetorical moves she uses to balance proximity and distance from group members.

(Instagram: @emmawatson)

Interviews with Our Shared Shelf members show that while the forum may seem to place Watson in close proximity, it is her negotiated distance from other members that underpin their comfortable acceptance of her as a political representative. While Watson’s celebrity status and large social media followings are seen as valuable because she can ‘give voice’ to other feminists, members want to participate on their own terms and not be too closely associated with celebrity culture. By drawing on her connection to formal politics through the UN and presenting herself in a professional way, and at an appropriate distance, members uncomfortable with celebrity accept and support Watson as a worthy exception. We argue that while the boundaries between media production and consumption may indeed be blurring online, celebrity status is more politically valuable where celebrities can keep some distance.

 This chapter will be published next year. If you are interested in taking a look before then feel free to email me (ellen.watts.2012@live.rhul.ac.uk) or Andy (A.Chadwick @lboro.ac.uk).

Reference: Watts, E. and Chadwick, A. (2020, forthcoming). ‘“With and Between You All”: Celebrity Status, User-Audience Networks, and Representative Claims in Emma Watson’s Feminist Politics’ in Lind, R. A. (ed) Produsing Theory in a Digital World 3.0: The Intersection of Audiences and Production in Contemporary Theory. New York: Peter Lang.

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Celebrities4Corbyn: New Article in Election Analysis 2017

As mainstream media coverage of the campaign converged around the two main party leaders to the exclusion of smaller parties in 2017, you were also less likely to see celebrity faces. In 2015 Labour brought its often high profile celebrity supporters to the heart of their campaign, sometimes giving the impression these celebrities were standing in for Labour’s less telegenic leader.

But a closer look at the 2017 campaign shows that while celebrities were less likely to make headlines, they had far from abandoned Labour. Old faces such as Steve Coogan and Eddie Izzard continued to canvass and make speeches to crowds at rallies. At the same time, celebrities outside of the mainstream in their own fields (most notably young grime artists) were attracted to the Corbyn for his outsider appeal. They were happy to share their newer media platforms with the leader, as well as appearing on television to argue that mainstream media was not giving him a fair hearing.

I’ve written a short piece for this for Election Analysis 2017, a great collection of articles on the election hastily and expertly compiled by Einar Thorsen, Dan Jackson, and Darren Lilliker at the University of Bournemouth.

You can take a look at my article here: http://www.electionanalysis.uk/uk-election-analysis-2017/section-8-personality-politics-and-popular-culture/celebrities4corbyn-continuity-and-change-in-labours-use-of-celebrities/

See the website for 92 great contributions on media and the 2017 General Election: http://www.electionanalysis.uk/  

Just don’t ask me to predict when we’re going to have another election.

 

Anti-Austerity Rally Speech

Singer Charlotte Church has become increasingly politically active since the General Election, making her anger at the Conservative government known. On June 20th she gave a speech at The People’s Assembly protest against austerity.

Criticism of Church has intensified since this much-publicised speech, with continued accusations that she’s a hypocritical champagne socialist being served up with a predictable sad side dish of misogyny. This week I’ll write a post about the reaction to Church’s turn to anti-austerity activism, asking whether her case demonstrates that it is impossible for a celebrity speaking out on political issues to be seen as authentic.

This is the transcript, posted on her blog. You can also watch her address the crowd of anti-austerity protestors here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_Vk2EAT8go

charlottesayshmmm

It’s so heartening to see so many people here. I’m not going to take up much of your time. But I do want to talk to two specific groups today. The first is those economists, academics, journalists, lawyers, public figures, celebrities, artists, who consider themselves progressive. We need to stop genre defining our politics, and harking back to old ideologies, and start talking about the future of government, the future of democracy, our children’s future; how we can be innovative in our thinking, how we can captivate the attention of the disengaged demographics, and how we can re-engage those at the most disaffected desperate fringes of society who were convinced to vote for a new-age fascist party by “Chicken Licken” trickery from an ale-swilling, pinstripe, Enoch Powell.

One of the main reasons so many young people are turning towards the agendas of consumerist capitalism, is that it’s advocates have embraced…

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Westminster All Stars? Celebrity and the 2015 General Election

I’ve written a piece for the Crick Centre’s Understanding Politics blog about what role celebrity might play in the upcoming election, and why it isn’t as simple as endorsements equal success.

You can read my post here: http://www.crickcentre.org/blog/westminster-stars-celebrity-2015-general-election/ 

The Crick Centre is based in the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield. Their blog, Understanding Politics, is part of their aim to promote public understanding of politics.