Current high levels of schadenfreude when it comes to the rich and famous may be one factor in the success of comedian Ziwe Fumudoh. Her Instagram Live show, in which she conducts agonising interviews about race with ‘problematic’ celebrities like influencer Caroline Calloway and food writer Alison Roman, has been an online phenomenon in recent weeks. In turn, the series has made Fumudoh herself something of a celebrity, with profiles in the New York Times and Vanity Fair, among others.
It’s certainly true that the fish tank in which we watch famous people swimming around has been under a magnifying glass during quarantine. The question is whether or not there will be long-lasting effects. Professor Rojek doesn’t think so, suggesting “we shouldn’t amplify the long term significance” of any tarnished reputations. “I don’t think people will turn on those celebrities,” he continues. “People, I think, will be so relieved when this crisis ends that all of this will be rapidly forgotten.” (Which would be a relief to DeGeneres, who is probably hoping that the public suffer from Finding Dory-style memory loss.)
Most importantly Professor Rojek emphasises: “We’ve had over a hundred years of celebrity culture. It’s not something that’s just happened in the last ten years.” The pandemic appears to have shifted who we deem worthy of recognition back towards those people with something real to offer, but perhaps that is only a virtuous blip. If the attention currently laser-focused on the High Court libel trial involving Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is anything to go by, scandals will still continue to generate as much salacious fascination as ever. The limelight of stardom might have been dimmed this year but it is likely only a temporary flicker: celebrity culture is here to stay.
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