Ripped-from-the-headlines: sexual violence & celebrity culture in contemporary U.S. media

Moro, S., 2021. Ripped-from-the-headlines: sexual violence & celebrity culture in contemporary U.S. media. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the imbrication of sexual violence and celebrity culture in contemporary US media. Even before #MeToo, celebrities who publicly shared their experience of sexual violence and/or engaged in advocacy work have been instrumental in shaping cultural understandings of sexual violence. Similarly, the celebrification of victims and survivors has coincided with the celebrification of activists and feminists in mainstream media. The public fascination with famous men implicated in sexual misconduct as well as with everyman perpetrators of violent sex crimes reveal how the celebritisation of sexual violence can be lucrative. This study interrogates the ways in which celebrity culture reconfigures victimhood, criminality, and advocacy. It makes an original contribution to celebrity studies and feminist media studies by exploring the links between celebrity culture and sexual violence.

The thesis deploys an innovative methodological framework, which combines critical discourse analysis with diagrams, to map this economy of visibility. It draws on a transmedia corpus to track the discursive circulation of sexual violence in mainstream media. The corpus thus includes TV series, films, documentaries, true crime texts, celebrity memoirs, interviews, and social media posts. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC 1999-) is the central node because of its unique focus on sex-based offences. Its trademark 'ripped-from-the-headlines' episodes provide an entry point to analyse the celebrification of victims, perpetrators, and advocates. The concept 'celefiction' is theorised to operationalise the role of fictional characters in media representation of sexual violence. It also highlights how contemporary celebrity culture is a transmedia phenomenon.

The focus is primarily on contemporary US media to examine the ubiquity of sexual violence in the public sphere, although the case studies resonate beyond the US border. The thesis offers a comprehensive analysis of the celebrification of victims, perpetrators, and advocates. It finds that celebrity mediations of sexual violence articulate social anxieties related to gender, sexuality, race, and class, as well as the changing nature of fame. The nexus of celebrity culture and sexual violence thus shapes cultural understandings of sexual violence, victimisation, and feminism. Overall, the thesis draws attention to the ways that sexual violence and celebrity culture are often mutually constitutive, and explores the hidden matrixes of power they share.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Moro, S.
Date: September 2021
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 06 Jun 2022 15:34
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2022 15:34
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/46406

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