The Media, Celebrity and Fan Culture

Module code: MS3009

Module co-ordinator: Dr Natasha Whiteman

Module Outline

From the early Hollywood star system to the celetoids and reality stars of today; from letter writing in fan magazines to direct interactions between celebrities and their fans in online environments, the nature of celebrity culture has undergone dramatic changes over the past decade. This module explores the historical emergence and evolution of celebrity as a theoretical concept and empirical phenomenon and considers the impact of celebrity on contemporary culture and society.

Drawing from historical and contemporary case studies and key readings from the growing field of 'celebrity studies', we will examine both the production and consumption of celebrity. We will explore how private individuals are transformed into public commodities. How might celebrities be understood as texts, and as products?

We will also consider the complex relationships that fans and media consumers develop with their celebrity idols. How can we understand the intense and occasionally obsessive relationships that fans experience with individuals who they may never meet, and what role might celebrity play in the formation of media consumers’ identities in different cultural contexts? In exploring these issues, we will also ask broader questions about the ways that celebrity culture informs different aspects of contemporary life, from politics and sports, to understandings of beauty and gender.

The module will take an interdisciplinary approach to the subject of celebrity culture, drawing on theories from communication studies, politics, sociology, psychology and economics. As part of the module, you will be asked to reflect on the significance of celebrity and fandom for your own media consumption habits through the creation of an online journal.

Topics covered

  • 'Celebrity' as concept
  • Celebrity and the tabloid press
  • Hollywood stardom and film icons
  • Commodification of celebrity
  • Celebrity endorsement and advertising
  • Celebrity worship
  • Online celebrity fandom
  • Celebrity and beauty
  • Celebrity politicians
  • Celebrity beyond the media
  • Reality television and celebrity


  • Lectures and seminars


  • Essay (50%)
  • Reflective journal (50%)