Celebrities can be defined by three different terms: ascribed, achieved or attributed. How a celebrity achieves their celebrity status affects how they are represented in the tabloids. Ascribed celebrities are celebrities who are ‘predetermined’. For example, people such as Prince William are predetermined celebrities; it is in their blood line and simply stems from biological descent. Tabloids treat predetermined celebrities with a level of respect seen rarely in attributed celebrities.
The Royal Family, especially in particularly right wing newspapers, will receive a level of respect and are seen as established as patriotic images, which tabloids seem intent on creating.
(You only need to look at how English Sporting stars are perceived in the tabloids to understand that patriotism is a key element in representing celebrities in British tabloids). Achieved celebrities are celebrities with rare talents and accomplishments that outshine others. For example, sporting achievements are held extremely highly in tabloid papers, as I’ve already mentioned.
I would say that achieved celebrities especially with sporting achievements, are held highest in the eyes of tabloids.
They are seen to “deserve” the limelight thrust upon them. However, despite the level of deserved recognition, should the achieved celebrity slip up the tabloids will revel in their downfall. Attributed celebrities are the ones most represented in tabloid newspapers, and come from mass media saturation and shows such as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Pop Idol’.
They haven’t achieved any spectacular feat to be respected or to earn long term celebrity status, and tabloids understand that it is how they, the tabloids, represent them that the public feel about them.
For example, in Pop Stars (the most recent one) Michelle, the winner, won not because of her talent but how the tabloids represented her. If The Sun backs her to win, they do not underestimate the effect that will have on the majority of the viewers of the show. This sort of ‘trashy TV’ is linked with ‘trashy tabloids’ and the consumers of Pop Idol are more likely to read The Sun than the Guardian.
Therefore, the tabloids can have huge influence over the attributed celebrities that they end up covering. There is an element of what came first: the celebrity being written about in tabloids, or the tabloids writing about the celebrity. Had the tabloids not written an article about Pop Idol contestants, would they be a celebrity for them to write about in future? The two tabloids that I have chosen to look at in determining how celebrities are represented are ‘The Sun’ and ‘The Daily Mirror’. The issues I have chosen of both papers are not from the same day. I originally chose The Sun and The Daily Sport.
I had never read The Daily Sport and I’m pretty sure I will never read it again, especially since there isn’t much to read in it. Every page had at least one picture of blonde topless twenty year old, and even then couldn’t really help my understanding of representation of celebrities in tabloids because Jordan and Jodie seemed to be the only celebrities they are interested in, and that is only when they have no top on. There were no news stories or even any entertainment features to focus on, and the name the daily sport is a little optimistic as there were 7 pages out of 64 that help any article of substance on sport.
So, the next day I went and brought The Daily Mirror and not only was it 5p cheaper, but also held a lot more to learn from the representation of celebrities. As the papers are not from the same day, they will not hold the same stories and will therefore cover different celebrities. The front page of the Daily Mirror holds 2 separate news stories, one small one spread over the front page and page 5, and the other main article continuing on page 7. The headline reads: “SOCCER ‘RAPE’ GIRL IN SUICIDE BID”.
The story in which the headline is referring to is a well documented story about Leicester City football players raping 3 women. The footballers are achieved celebrities; they play in a well known club and earn money that we can only dream of earning. They are normally recognised for their sporting achievements and the tabloids especially, love football stars. However, this story is a derogatory story against the football stars. The paper is giving the implied meaning that it agrees with the women accusing Paul Dickov and Frank Sinclair of rape and assault allegations.
The girls are referred to as “depressed” and “traumatised”, and no mention is given as to the feelings of the players only that they are “out on bail” and “strongly deny the claims”. The women at the centre of these allegations have become celebrities themselves. They are recognisable in the headline as “soccer rape girl” and appear as simply their first names in the rest of the story. The other story on the front page refers to the Iraq war and makes claims that two ITV journalists were “blown to bits” by American forces, and that “NO attempt to look for survivors” was made.
The headline reads “Missing ITV duo killed by U. S”. Their names are not recognisable but can still be seen as celebrities as they work in the media. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians were killed as these two journalists were, but a story has been put on the front page about them because they work in the media and are seen to have “power” as celebrities, though their names are not recognisable as celebrities. Also on the front page, as the largest picture on the front page out-shadowing the photo for the main story, Charlotte Church appears with the line “How dumping her man helped Charlotte lose pounds”.
Story continues on page 3, and this photo and simple line define how celebrities are represented in the tabloids. Charlotte Church who recently turned 18 is now seen as an adult and the tabloids feel freer in how they represent her. They could be criticised for being iniquitous is depicting her the same way when she was 16 or 17. The photo is of her in a low cut top her arms back, looking straight at the camera. The emphasis is on her losing weight, and as she is a celebrity, this is seen as being worth a mention on the front page.
Turning to page 3, we see a large picture of her posing on a bench with her “new look”. We see her achievement as something special, simply because she is a celebrity. The tabloids look to celebrities to sell papers therefore by having a picture of Charlotte Church on the front page doing pretty much anything, will make them achieve sales. Another news story in the Daily Mirror focuses on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and claims that friends have told them Gordon Brown is so certain he will become Prime Minister within the next two years that he has already started planning his cabinet.
This friend has also started which members would be in which cabinet positions, Jack Straw as Deputy PM, and Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary. The story treats Gordon Brown and Tony Blair in the same way is does the other celebrities it has covered. The headline reads: GORDON: I WILL BE PM BY 2006. The headline implies Brown has said that sentence, but as it does not appear in quote marks we can be sure that Gordon Brown has not actually said this.
It is misleading over the relationship between the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, and much of the story is based on evidence from a close source or friend to the Chancellor. Is also relies of recognition of the Gordon Brown and Tony Blair simply by the first names. Calling the Chancellor of the Exchequer simply “Gordon” also makes him seem more approachable to the readers of The Daily Mirror. It has also rendered the system for choosing cabinet ministers as an almost “pop-idol” winning/losing system, showing that importance is not based on the facts but rather on the small details that the readers want.
John Prescott and Peter Hain have two photos next to which “OUT” is written in capitols and bold type face. If this story is true and not “complete rubbish” as quoted by a Premier’s official spokesman, Gordon Brown would not have simply decided to get rid off John Prescott or Peter Hain and decided “OUT”. This is an example of how the culture of celebrities from shows such as Pop Idol which relies on “voting out” and show a “getting rid off those you dislike” culture can influence stories about politics and politicians.