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Teenagers learn about modern life through celebrity culture, says Royal Holloway academic

Posted on 17/06/2014

Teenagers interested in celebrity culture are more likely to have a well-rounded knowledge of modern life and awareness of issues relating to politics, economics and the media, a leading Media Arts academic at Royal Holloway, University of London, has said.

Dr James Bennett said many intelligent young people have a desire to learn about celebrities’ lives, which can help them develop informed opinions on topical debates such as the role of the media and the importance of good role models.

Speaking ahead of the international Celebrity Studies Journal Conference at Royal Holloway, from Thursday 19 June to Saturday 21 June, Dr Bennett said: “From Angelina Jolie’s breast cancer surgery, to Madonna adopting children from Malawi, celebrities are constantly used to tell stories that spark important conversations and debates about moral, political, economic and cultural issues.

“Today’s teenagers benefit from discussing these topics with their peers. Indeed, we shouldn’t patronise young people by assuming they are sucked into celebrity culture. They understand the difference between reality TV stars and politicians – but more importantly, they understand how both can use PR machines and the trappings of celebrity to boost their popularity.”

The three day conference will see nearly 200 delegates from around the world come together to debate the role of celebrity in modern society. The event also features a specially curated exhibition of renowned photographer Carinthia West’s work, whose intimate portraits of the stars include singers Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

Hollywood, scandals, animal celebrities and TV chefs will be among some of the topics discussed at the conference. In addition, in one of five keynote lectures Professor Mandy Merck, from the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, will talk about the celebrity status of the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.



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