The shadows of celebrity shows all the reflections of a flickering candle.The shadows are the flip side of the spotlight. They are unpredictable and turn in usual paths and shapes at times..Its always been a battle between the trickle down and trickle up the social ladders. ..The age of celebrity has coincided with sociological examiners like Maslow, Weber et al. who, all noticed a concern with man’s perplexing refusal to behave rationally in what seemed his own best interest. Its claimed that the word celebrity began its long run with the invention of photography, but the rails had been greased beforehand by the romantic poets like Byron and wild performances of a Paganini and Liszt and Berlioz. But before, in the early stages of the Industrial age, in the more genteel drawing rooms…
…Despite efforts to establish a career on a more respectable and artistic level, Brooke Shields has had difficulty in dealing with contradictory and seemingly antagonistic poses in which the demands of competing archetypes create a coherent juxtaposition which fully enclose the equal contradictions of American society. She found herself in the unusual but not unique position of being idolized as a 1970’s post hippie-era archetype of adolescent, heartland style wholesome virginal innocence meets young urban sophisticate. She was being photographed in manners that pushed the boundaries of child pornography through an implied suggestiveness .Directly, the blame of her mother Teri Shields, ,the classic stage mother is obvious; though she was simply acting within the system that was available to her; and she was shrewd enough to use it better than most. The Garry Gross photographs were not an isolated incident, but part of a sequence that was inevitable. But where did this all begin?…
In the drawing-room culture of the late-eighteenth century, sentimentality and sensibility loomed large. The cult of sensibility prescribed a code of conduct, particularly with regard to individuals’ reactions to art and culture. Displaying the correct normative sentiment in response to the contemplation of art displayed taste, upbringing and and a more or less noble birth.Quickly however, emotions became frozen into a limited range of mannerisms; education was commodified in the possession of art and art knowledge and art itself was commodified in kitsch and caricaturized.
In the ambiguous space of the chintzy and the kitschy is what could be termed the fertile insemination ground of pop culture; a void in which a grab-bag of both heightened and deadened emotions can be represented and created without worry, for the most part, of the resulting consequences they could cause: a free zone safe indulgence that eventually become the norm. This early pop industry based on the dilettante and active spectator of the arts was linked to the drawing rooms of Europe. Music making as well as painting was the beginning of what was considered safe, socially acceptable “loisirs” or artistic hobbies of women in the drawing room, of which the boudoir became a derivative extension. Brooke Shields as a ten year old in a bubble bath was the shadowy backroom of the Salon culture.
The low level in which the general population reacts is a calculated stratagen of those in the celebrity business. The appeal of the sensationalist press and what was then a new phenomenon of avid interest in spectator sports from horse racing, to hangings and the guillotine were disturbing from the beginning, but a force to be reckoned with in understanding the social psychology that triggers such mass consumption and its relation to desires, needs and wants.
“His name was well-known, even if it is whispered with muted distaste in photography and copyrights circles. His body of work is unknown, eclipsed by a single pictorial he undertook for American socialite Teri Shields. In 1975, Garry Gross scribbled his name into a dubious footnote in the history of photography by photographing a nude 10-year-old Brooke Shields. The photos of bejeweled soon-to-be-child-actress, in thick makeup and in a steaming, ornate bathtub, however, wouldn’t become known outside the arts community for another three years.”
After seeing the photos Louis Malle cast Brooke Shields as a child prostitute in Pretty Baby, his acclaimed movie set during the last months of legal prostitution in New Orleans. The rest was history — and a rancorous one as that. Some two decades after New York’s highest court ruled that the photos are not “sexually suggestive, provocative or pornographic” and are distributable as long as they are not included in pornographic publications, the public remains as divided as ever before on the issue…..
Today, the underlying cruelty of the celebrity and quasi-celebrity haute monde is further explored in the predominance of reality television, celebrity obsession and a certain erosion of reliable news and information; sometimes filtered for better. On the other hand, the world in which Brooke Shields was spawned into tells a great deal about ourselves:In the concluding episodes, of the Soprano’s, the psychologist becomes conscious that Tony Soprano is just using her to refine and justify his rationalizations for his sociopathic tendencies and she acts by returning him to the general population. Similarly, the Seinfeld gang, at the end of its run, is no better than the Soprano family. though the Soprano’s experience tragedy , the audience is left believing that the characters have not evolved, and won’t change their behaviors because in the larger world that is even more grotesque than the Sopranos, their sense of values mix and blur… Shields is a sensitive and intelligent person who drags a weight of suffering with her. As in the film Rabbit Hole when the mother asks: “Does it ever go away?,” …”No. But it changes the weight of it. It turns into something you can carry around, like a brick in your pocket.”
“The sociological views stars and the mechanisms that create and promote them as the phenomenon; their work is secondary and inconsequential. The semiotic reverses this, and draws on linguistic theories to read celebrities through the meanings and significations attached to their work.” ( Harmon )