The Darker Side of Fame: Celebrity Deaths, Tabloid Culture and the Death Industry

By Hanna E. Kyllonen.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Death fascinates us. It becomes especially interesting when the person who dies is famous and dies before their time. When a celebrity dies, depending on the strength of his/her image and his/her position in the hierarchy of fame, stories of his/her death are endlessly circulated in the tabloid media. Furthermore, death provides no obstacle to the commodification of the celebrity. Celebrities are consumer products and as such become even more famous in death. This paper investigates the interconnections between death, celebrity, the tabloidisation of the media and the death industry through a close reading of three case studies: Hollywood actor Heath Ledger, who died in 2008 from an overdose of prescription drugs; British reality TV star Jade Goody, who died from cervical cancer in 2009 and pop star Michael Jackson, who died from a heart attack in 2009. The paper analyses the representations of these deaths in the tabloid media, revealing how for all three celebrities death became the ‘ultimate career move’ as the death industry sought to commodify them. The tabloid narratives offer a level of invasiveness that reflect the darker turn that celebrity culture has taken, exemplify the hypocrisy of the tabloid culture and reveal a growing death industry seeking to profit from dead stars.

Keywords: Celebrity, Commodification, Death, Tabloid Culture, Tabloid Newspapers

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.129-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 640.340KB).

Hanna E. Kyllonen

Graduate Student and Associate Tutor, Media and Film Department, University of Sussex, Haywards Heath, UK


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