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Jeffrey Kahan: Bettymania and the Death of Celebrity Culture [Abstract]

In 2010, I published a book, Bettymania and the Birth of Celebrity Culture. In this article, I want to revisit the topic, not because Bettymania matches our present reality but, rather, to measure our present paradigm against its originator. Whatever new era we now occupy, it can no longer be accurately dubbed “celebrity-driven.” Given that our airwaves are saturated with reality TV and YouTube navel gazing, that Facebook has now turned everyone into an expert on personal branding and self-promotion, and that, in America, we have a celebrity as our commander-in-chief, this argument may strike many as wrongheaded; but, to a large extent, what we meant by celebrity culture and the rules that we affixed to it, no longer apply. A study of Bettymania may well offer us some understanding of celebrity culture, but the inception of that culture now seems trivial compared to its date of expiration, which, I argue, occurred the moment Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

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