We are watching

This is one of the four blog sites for UCI’s Spring quarter LitJ and English 103 course, The Literature of Fashion and Celebrity. On this blog, we’ll be watching and calibrating the fame quotient of the troubled actress Amanda Bynes, in order to better understand how the fame machine works, and how observation, writing, and narrative are used by it, and use it. Does screwing up make you more famous once you’re already inside the fame machine? Does a celebrity have to keep producing news to remain in the public eye? And how do the media profit from the ongoing fame production?


On our other blogs, CumberbatchWatch, WestWatch, and The LaBeoufWatch, we’ll be considering how the fame machine works for other kinds of celebrities. For all the blogs, we want to be thinking about how the narrative of celebrity functions for and in the wider world.

Here’s a chart from 2006 showing what the National Entertainment State looks like. (Scroll to the PDF.)

Some of the questions we want to consider as we watch Cumberbatch, West, Bynes, and LaBeouf this quarter:

How does the digital world enhance a celebrity’s standing?

Can all the coverage harm a figure or only enhance her or him, in some way?

Someone once said that there is no such thing as bad publicity — is that true?

And how does publicity differ from journalism — this is a particularly vexed question in the field of celebrity and fashion journalism, where so often the reporter is co-opted in some way by the subject.

Can a day pass without a news mention of one of these figures? Why not?

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 11.34.23 AM
Everyday, more news. What’s news, when it’s about a former child star who’s a hit-and-run mess-up?

Does the celebrity’s “true” character as a human being play a part in his or her fame in any way?

Why are so many celebrities actors? What other professions seem to create celebrities?

What are the implicit narratives of our subjects’ fame stories?

Who is generating the stories about our subjects? How are they being covered?

Who is doing the most serious writing about them, if anyone? (WE are!!!)

Paparazzi: what is the significance of this phenomenon?

Amanda Bynes Hides Face From Paparazzi Using Dog
Hiding from the paparazzi… it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there…

How does the viewer participate in the fame quotient, in the former of commenters, fan fictions, etc.?

Do celebrities matter? Is the celebrity machine a force for good in the culture, in the broader world?

Bynes followers, this is your site: You know who you are!

Go to the blog page and comment! Let’s become smart about this constant feed of facts and factoids and pointless fizz and fodder that’s coming at us all the time, every day; even our subject knows how crazy it all is, apparently (see photo above).

3 thoughts on “We are watching

  1. I feel that in a sense, Amanda’s entire life and our’s, as individuals in our early twenties meld into one narrative of maturation from adulthood to childhood. Amanda’s life story and current struggles (or recovery from them) is most interesting to those currently in the college age bracket, as we grew up with her. We watched her on All That and The Amanda Show, laughed at her hilarious jokes and silly antics, and followed her to the big screen, in films such as Big Fat Liar, What a Girl Wants, and Easy A. Because her shows were on Nickelodeon when a lot of Americans who are currently aged 19-22 would have been watching shows on this network, it is this age bracket that is most interested in her life now. She brings us back to our childhood. That is why reading about her bizarre behavior is so shocking–because we associate her with an PG-rated image created for her by Nickelodeon.

    A while ago, I read that Amanda’s struggles might be considered a mid-life crisis of sorts–because she has been in the public eye and working professionally since age 10, she is having her mid-life at an 27, an age not typically considered middle-aged. I found this interesting. I also read somewhere that after she set fire to the driveway of an elderly woman’s home, she was placed under the same mental hold that Britney Spears was placed under, after Britney shaved her head and wrecked a paparazzi’s car. Why the comparison between Spears and Bynes? Do we think of all celebrity meltdowns as having the same magnitude?

  2. Nice ice breaker! Now let’s see who else will man up to the Amanda watch. I think it’s interesting when a star’s plummet from respectability brings her or him more fame than he or she had before. It’s because we love their narratives. No narrative better than the fall from grace. It makes everyone feel good.

  3. Earlier this year, I had heard (from The Wendy Williams Show) that Amanda Bynes had been attending FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandizing after having left the rehabilitation clinic she had been staying in last year. According to various media outlets, Amanda has decided to stop acting in order to pursue her passion for fashion (nice!). It is also assumed that this change of career, whether temporary or not, is a part of her recovery. It seems that Amanda has been doing really well after her stunts last year, which eventually led her to be sent to rehab, as many other young celebrities had done before her.

    Another point of interest that I found, also from Wendy Williams, is that her parents have been directly involved in Amanda’s recovery, overseeing over her and pretty much every outlet in her life. Something not often seen in the world of celebrity, where the actors often like to think of themselves as completely independent from their parents due to them being the “bread-winners” of the family. Whether this is a good or bad thing is yet to be seen, but it is definitely something new to see and Amanda’s recovery has appeared to be very promising.

    This is more or less of a rundown of Amanda’s recent shutdown, which has brought her more attention than she has been receiving for a long time. Hopefully her path to recovery is as interesting to the media, so we have something to follow without having to wait for the next unfortunate breakdown.

    (Someone had to break the ice…)

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