On friday the 9th of May, The second year students of the Birmingham City University Media and Communications course hosted an event that was designed to enable us the opportunity to network and interact with other media interested and inspired minds.
A committee was selected from our students and they liaised with staff and outside bodies to plan and create this event using the ideas the students had thought up and crafted together during sessions. once this was sorted each student was given the opportunity to choose an area of work that they would participate in to ensure the smooth running of the event, This also enabled greater contribution from students and increased interpersonal skills.
Each and every student needed to create a poster that would be displayed at the event and would need to tie into their theory based portfolio of work. This was done to allow a better understanding of the theoretical aspect of our degree. We were then given time slots to stand by our posters and engage any passers by that expressed an interest in our work. It was suggested that we all dress up smart, so i wore a smart suit trousers, white shirt, waistcoat and red tie. I then carried business cards, photography portfolio and a venetian mask to draw interest.
Overall i think the event went really well and ran smoothly, Obviously there were some minor problems that managed to be overcome with some communication. i believe the event needed to be better advertised and possibly held on a different day as the jobs fair that was in progress hindered our abilities to talk to people for extended periods of time.
For this assignment I will be conducting a star study on Jessica Alba analyzing how she has constructed her plastic self and how she maintains continued audience appeal through diverse star performance. I will be analysing what the star system is, how stars are constructed, what the difference between stars and celebrities are, and how stars can be considered an economic power in Hollywood. Jessica Alba’s acting career started to build momentum in the mid 1990’s by having small acting parts in television. Since then she has built a high profile career and has acted alongside industry stars such as Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Kathy Bates and Patrick Dempsey. Alba is probably best known for acting in the television series ‘Dark Angel’ in which she played the lead heroine Max Guevera who has been genetically engineered to raise hell and the movie adaptation of the marvel comic book series ‘Fantastic Four’ in which she again played the lead female character Sue Storm who gained powers after being exposed to solar radiation. Aswell as playing the genetically altered heroines as previously mentioned she has also appeared in films as the love interest and a stripper. No matter which character Alba happens to be playing she maintains an essence of truth and believability that she weaves into the character, and thus could be argued that she assimilates what she learns from these characters personas and integrates fragments of them into her own plastic self to enable and enhanced connection with her audience. Thus hypothetically, the more characters she plays, the more ‘real’ her plastic self can appear.
In most films that Alba stars, or has a supporting role in she will play the perky, intelligent, semi mysterious love interest that enhances the morals and character of the male lead. However this is not always the case, in ‘Sin City’ she plays the character of Nancy Callahan who we see in different stages of her life and with a dramatic shift in her personality. Whilst Alba doesn’t actually portray the eleven year old version of Nancy she does build and adapt the character in the later stages when she adopts the role. We see Alba playing Nancy as an exotic dancer who chose this job as a way to pay her way through law school. This character has similarities to other characters that she has played in that they have usually suffered a trauma, be it physical, mental, emotional or genetically and still be strong, compassionate and desirable. In order for some confident Actors to broaden their range of personas, they will attempt to appear in a number of films of varying genres and with a cast that is as popular as possible in an attempt to build their audience base and give their career increased momentum.
Jessica Alba was born on the 28th of April 1989 and started to express an interest in acting when she was five years old. When she was eleven Alba managed to convince her mother to allow her to participate in an acting competition that took place in beverly hills, the grand prize being free acting classes. Alba won the grand prize and began her acting classes straight away. Only nine months later, alba was spotted and signed by an agent. Alba first appeared on film in the 1994 movie Camp Nowhere as Gail. Initially, Alba was only hired to play a supporting role in the movie, however when one of the lead actresses dropped out, Alba was chosen to replace her and her contract was extended from two weeks to two months. Alba also appeared in two different national television commercials for big brands, Nintendo and J.C. Penny.
After appearing in a stint of independent films Alba broadened her horizons in 1994 and landed a recurring role as a mean girl type clic leader in the nickelodeon comedy television series The Secret World of Alex Mack. She then performed the role of Maya in the first two seasons of the television series flipper. Alba acquired the role because of diving skills that she had learned from her mother while growing up. Alba has also starred as the antagonist to Drew Barrymore’s character in Never Been Kissed. Alba continued to attract attention in the film and television with her rise to prominence as the lead actress in the James Cameron television series Dark Angel when she was 19 years-old. Alba’s fame and prestige continued to escalate in the film industry following her appearance in films such as Honey in 2003, Sin City, Fantastic Four, Into the Blue all of which debuted in 2005 and then Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 2007 and Good Luck Chuck in 2007.
Aswell as winning various awards for her acting including the Choice Actress Teen Choice Award, Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television and a Golden Globe nomination for her lead role in the television series Dark Angel. Alba has been considered a sex symbol, She appears on the “Hot 100” section of Maxim, TV Guide ranked her number 45 on its “50 Sexiest Stars of All Time” list, she was voted number one on AskMen.com’s 2006 list of “99 Most Desirable Women” as well as “Sexiest Woman in the World” by FHM in 2007. however her acting has also drawn the criticism of many and in 2005 she was nominated for the Razzie award for Worst Actress for her performances in Fantastic Four and Into the Blue. Alba was nominated for the same award again in 2007 for Awake, Good Luck Chuck and Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer. Surprisingley Alba has a strict no nudity policy that encompases any character that she plays and she has managed to keep this policy despite playing a stripper character in the original Sin City movie and being regarded as a sex symbol. When asked the reason nudity was off the table Alba replied ’I don’t want my grandparents to see my boobs. That’s it. It would be weird at Christmas.’ (WHITELOCKS, 2014)
in an industry that is so obsessed with sexual appeal it is amazing that Alba has managed to not break this policy and still remain relevant in the industry.
The methodology that is most appropriate to undertake this research report was a mixture of semiotic and rhetorical analysis. Using the semiotic approach I will be analysing the roles that Jessica Alba has played and studying how they have appealed and influenced the audience. I will also use rhetorical because it will allow me study the roles that Jessica Alba has played and how they differ in persona and character development and if these have any impact on Albas Plastic self. I could have used a form of questionnaire, either online or printed to determine if the audience would have associated the actors or characters name to a photo of that celebrity and find out if they would go see a new film merely because their favorite actor was in it and why. A criticism of this is that if i were to conduct this locally it would be a small and largely similar sample group and if it was conducted online then i could potentially face the issue of people changing their answers. A focus group would also help me achieve data but has its own restriction and negativities such as time requirement.
Stars are considered as a vital part of the economic process of Hollywood and this comes in many terms such as capital, investment, outlay and the market. in terms of capital, the stars are representing capital that is owned by the studio. as an investment the stars were a guarantee against loss of investment. in terms of outlay which means that stars represented a large portion of the budget and thus needed to be handled carefully and correctly. Lastly, the market. stars are used to sell the films and to help organise the market. One way that a movie manages to attract attention from the public is by having notable celebrities that are popular at that time to star in them. This is done because it enables the film the opportunity to appeal to a larger audience base. Marketing films in this way have been proven to work. for example, some films advertise the actors and actresses more than the directors and another way the films achieve this type of marketing is by the word of mouth in the public sphere, “have you seen that new (insert celebrities name) new film?”. Many people will have come across a version of this phrase in their day to day lives. it is effective because celebrities have a large audience that will want to see a film simply because they are in it. Edgar Morin confirms that this type of marketing and publicity does exist and he analyses the phenomenon further by explaining the power dynamics between the stars and who they work for.
“The names and faces of the stars devour all movie advertisements. The name of the film itself scarcely counts. The director emerges from anonymity only exceptionally. ‘A film with Fernandel,’ we say, or ‘Garbo’s last film’: the stars rightly determine the very existence and economy of the movies. Scenarios are made to order for them. A star can also transform a scenario already accepted by a studio: Marcel Achard and Marc Allegret must bow to the requirements of a star like Charles Boyer a film which finally becomes Orage”
Most movie posters that are around now will have the actors names bigger and more prominent than the production company or the director as they can be considered to be an important factor in the audience choosing and liking the film. Often the advertisements don’t give the audience any indication of the movies plot but will just be the big name actors as the unique selling point.
In his book “The Stars” that deals with the evolution and significance of the hollywood star system Edgar Morin states that “The star is not only an actress. The characters she plays are not only characters. The characters of her films infect the star. Reciprocally, The star herself infects these characters.” (Morin,1960). This statement still holds true as celebrities are thought of by the audience in the manner in which they first encountered them. in the media this connection can be strengthened, for example if a celebrity is introduced on a talk show as “Desperate Housewives star (name)” it will further ingrain his role into the minds of the viewers. In her book ‘Hollywood, The Dream Factory’ Hortense Powdermaker
“From a business point of view, there are many advantages in the star system. The star has tangible features which can be advertised and marketed - a face, a body, a pair of legs, a voice, a certain kind of personality, real or synthetic - and can be typed as the wicked villain, the honest hero, the fatal siren, the sweet young girl, the neurotic woman. the system provides a formula easy to understand and has made the production of movies seem more like just another business. the use of this formula may serve also to protect executives from talent and having to pay too much attention to such intangibles as the quality of a story or of acting. here is a standardised product which they can understand, which can be advertised and sold, which not only they, but also banks and exhibitors, regard as insurance for large profits…”
(Powdermaker, Hortense 1950)
In normal day to day life, the terms Stars and Celebrities mean the same thing but in a media related aspect, they are actually different. a celebrity is a person who has achieved fame, a star is an image that is constructed and holds no truth and is partially disconnected from reality
Stars are a phenomenon of production, they are images in media texts, thur are product of hollywood. There are two polar opposite views surrounding the discussion of Hollywood production. the first states that Hollywood production is merely akin to capitalist production, like so many others. this perspective sees stars in terms of their role in the economy of Hollywood and most importantly, how they can manipulate and shape Hollywoods most important factor, the audience. The second argument suggest that stars contribute to the intrinsic value of the film medium and themselves rather than just being a tool of Hollywood production to create an economy in which Hollywood is designed to prosper. both of these arguments are valid and it is
The term plastic self can and has been applied to a variety of different contemporary celebrities and it is relevant because it is probable that the audience will remember the first character they ever see from an actor or actress and it is difficult for them to ever escape that role, a prime example of that is the actor daniel radcliffe who is better known as harry potter in the movie franchise. Because of his wide success that radcliff found in his role as harry potter it could be difficult for him to break out of that plastic self that the world is used to imagining him as and creating a new persona, both on and off the camera. Celebrities usually keep their public personas similar to their most successful onscreen performance and they will seldom express their ‘true’ selves in the media domain. Essentially, a plastic self is a persona that gives the illusion of being like instead of actually being that thing.
In the book ‘Contemporary Hollywood Stardom’ edited by Thomas Austin and Martin Baker according to media lecture Barry King, to apply the term plastic self to celebrity personas that the public and media spheres view would be outdated and needs a new term and definition. King believes that the plastic self has evolved into the elastic self for a number of different reasons. King states that
“Responding to the situation, today’s stars model the challenges of sustaining a viable self in a welter of interactions. as demands compete and have to be managed, persona work involves stretching an apparent core of personal qualities to cover all contingencies, and rationalising every shift and change as an aspect of constancy. In this process, persona is elastic rather than plastic, closer to a procedure for surviving, a heuristic of the self, than an essence. as a result, the norms of persona are now primarily indexical rather than iconic, of being rather than of being like”.
Essentially this statement means that contemporary celebrities can’t just try to act a certain way, they need to actually try to be the persona they are presenting. They can achieve this in a number of different ways, such as personalising the values and characteristics that they are trying to replicate and getting involved with people who share these particular attributes.
In the book entitled ‘Understanding Media:Inside Celebrity’ edited by Jessica Evans and David Hesmondhalgh it is stated that there are three main approaches to understanding and deconstructing celebrity media production. The first of these is an organisational approach that deals with the inner workings and internal dynamics of the institutions involved in the creation and marketing of the celebrities (read production companies and actor agencies, managers and or firms). secondly is the political economy approach which is more concerned with the profit making force that drives what these business produce and what this says about their role in society. Thirdly is the post structuralist approach which was inspired by the works of the french historian Michel Foucault and was more focused on the responsibility that the media industries have in regards to the production of certain kinds of relationships between celebrities and audiences, which in turn, have an effect on key aspects of our modern society.
In conclusion, it is evident that celebrities have the potential to convince the prospective audience to watch a film and they do this by using their plastic or elastic self’s and their stellar acting abilities. Stars and celebrities have always held a certain amount of power when it came to selling a film to a prospective audience however, with the introduction of new technology and social ideals, it has been amplified by the use of celebrities using social media as another way of reaching their audience. By doing this the audience can feel a deeper, even an intensely personal connection to these celebrities, which in turn, sells tickets. Even though Alba has received criticism for her acting, she has not let this stop her. Alba has managed to achieve this during her career by playing a varying amount of different characters in a few key genres and building her audience base up over her time in the industry. Alba has found success by playing ‘Damaged’ characters and will be returning to the role as Nancy Callahan in the second installment of Sin City entitled Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. This will give her the opportunity to better refine this aspect of her plastic/elastic self and continue to fortify the foundation of her career.
Austin, T. and Baker, M. (2003). Chapter 2. In: contemporary Hollywood Stardom. London: Edward Arnold. p60.
Morin, E. (1960). Genesis and Metamorphosis of the stars. In: The Stars. London: John Calder Ltd. p5.
Morin, E. (1960). Gods and Goddesses. In: The Stars. London: John Calder Ltd. p37.
Powdermaker, H. (1950). Hollywood the dream factory. [New ed.] Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown and Co. p228-229
Whitelocks, S. (2014). 'I don't want my grandparents to see my boobs!' Jessica Alba reveals why she maintains a strict no-nudity clause as she covers up for new issue of Glamour. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2621507/I-dont-want-grandparents-boobs-Jessica-Alba-reveals-maintains-strict-no-nudity-clause-covers-new-issue-Glamour.html. Last accessed 5th May 2014.
So i have just started watching the original netflix series ‘Hemlock Grove’ and it occurs to me that it has a very noiresque undertone to it that is mainly characterised by a few of the characters, mainly Olivia Godfrey. Olivia Godfrey strikes me as a very modern rebirth of the femme fatale archetype. She manipulates everyone around her, especially men by using sex as a weapon.
This was a standard femme fatale practice in the film noir genre. One of many subtle differences is that Olivia Godfrey does not play helpless to get what she wants, she is arrogant, commanding and threatening. she feels no need to try and get people to do things her way, she just makes them. she is an interesting character because at one point she does show remorse or sadness which isn’t typically an emotion which is shown by a femme fatale, at least not genuinely. This strikes me to be a more deadly combination as emotion makes people and situations more unpredictable.
As i have only seen a couple of episodes, i am interested to see how this series will develop and if it will borrow from the noir genre and style again.