Book Review: Manufacturing Celebrity: Latino Paparazzi and Women Reporters in Hollywood by Vanessa Díaz
In Manufacturing celebrity: Latino paparazzi and female reporters in Hollywood, vanessa diaz demystifies the role of Latino paparazzi and female reporters in the media production of celebrities. At a time of great upheaval in labor markets, Díaz’s interdisciplinary analyzes at the intersection of work, race, gender, and media are particularly insightful and relevant, writes Jonathan Pie and Sara Castro Cantu.
Manufacturing celebrity: Latino paparazzi and female reporters in Hollywood. Vanessa Diaz. Duke University Press. 2020.
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In manufacturing celebrity, Vanessa Díaz critically examines and demystifies the role and position of Latino paparazzi and female reporters in the media production of celebrities. manufacturing celebrity is a participatory ethnography written over a period of approximately ten years while Díaz was working at People magazine. It offers a study of precarious work and how the “Hollywood industrial complex” depends on these workers and militarizes them. The two populations studied – the paparazzi and people reporters – experience this precariousness in different ways. At a time of great upheaval in labor markets, Díaz’s interdisciplinary analyzes at the intersection of work, race, gender, and media are particularly insightful and relevant.
A guided analysis through manufacturing celebrity is that of visibility and invisibility and how the politics of vision intersects with that of inclusion, racialization and sexualization. Throughout the ethnography, Díaz highlights how celebrity visibility is fabricated through the invisibility of Latino paparazzi and how paparazzi inclusion depends on that invisibility. Similarly, the politics of vision have an impact on the work of female reporters. Unlike the Latino paparazzi, they are visible on the red carpet; however, this visibility translates into their sexualization and the reinforcement of heteronormative understandings of female sexuality. As a result, for both female reporters and Latino paparazzi, visibility carries risks – it is an opportunity for the politics of surveillance of celebrity media production to cement their relative precariousness.
Surveillance therefore emerges as a distinctive theme throughout ethnography. Latino paparazzi keep a close eye on celebrities; however, politics and surveillance logics within Hollywood serve to racialize and exclude paparazzi from full participation in the media production of celebrities. Similarly, female reporters monitor celebrities on the red carpet; however, this scrutiny is reversed again, and they become the highly sexualized object of Hollywood’s gaze.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
manufacturing celebrity opens with an exploration of Latino paparazzi in Los Angeles. Díaz mainly focuses on a paparazzo, Galo, and his experiences driving around Hollywood and trying to take the most wanted photos. His analysis highlights that Latino paparazzi are denied equal access to celebrity media output: instead of attending red carpet events, they shoot from behind the scenes, resist harassment, and spend hours each day hide and wait in their car. This denial of access is based on the racialization of the paparazzi who are portrayed as aggressive, illegal and ‘other’. They are easily disposable and interchangeable and are often racially and linguistically profiled.
As Díaz explores in Chapter Three, this racialization of the paparazzi carries risks. Racializing logics that marginalize Latino paparazzi have also resulted in the concurrent erasure of the death of a Latino paparazzi, Chris, who died following an interaction with the police. Díaz explains that the work of the Latino paparazzi is intimately associated with the “economy of violence” (97): this “economy”, in tandem with racialization, has made Chris disposable within the Hollywood industrial complex. After his death, online discourse focused on assigning blame to him, with little or no regard for his life or humanity.
This perceived disposableness also translates into efforts to legislate against and hate paparazzi in order to signify status and gain empathy within celebrity media. Díaz calls these “media rituals hate” (119) and explains that they function as an extension of “social death,” or denial of personality. Latino paparazzi, in many ways, occupy a state of “social death” which results in the amplification of celebrity and consumer hatred towards paparazzi. This contrasts sharply with the movement and socio-economic value of the media they produce. The legitimacy of the Latino paparazzi as a cultural producer is thus denied.
Like Latino paparazzi, female reporters experience precariousness in similar but contrasting ways. Unlike paparazzi, whose work often takes place near the homes and workplaces of celebrities, female reporters are more likely to be found on the red carpet and in legit spaces and events. Díaz offers a fascinating analysis of the red carpet in chapter four, explaining that it is intimately linked to the cultural concept of celebrity and elite. The iconicity of the red carpet has become a “media ritual” (127) and is used in Hollywood to naturalize and legitimize order and distinction. Moreover, these same reporters are also sexualized by heterosexual male celebrities and their visibility on the red carpet, thus reinforcing heteronormative attitudes towards women’s sexuality and the female body.
These heteronormative attitudes toward the female body are particularly prevalent in coverage of celebrity weight loss and weight gain. Such coverage reproduces toxic understandings of the “ideal” female body. Díaz’s analysis is particularly insightful here, as it explores how such coverage depends on imagined or “parasocial” (219) relationships between consumers and celebrities and the psychocultural significance of these relationships in constructing the media culture of celebrities. celebrities.
Díaz’s writing style throughout manufacturing celebrity is clear, powerful and convincing. Both comprehensive and accessible, Díaz manages to capture the attention of students and media scholars as well as the casual reader. Díaz’s approach is interdisciplinary, borrowing from anthropology, sociology, media studies and cultural economics to bring to life the unexplored and understudied lives of famous paparazzi and journalists, and to paint a rich tapestry of the processes that lead to the invisibility of these racialized people and sex workers.
His methods, which include one-on-one conversations, interviews, ethnographic observations and personal insights drawn from his own work on celebrity magazines, inform his analysis of the Hollywood industrial complex and the people who contribute to its creation. . By interviewing and writing about specific paparazzi, journalists and interns, Díaz accomplishes the task of giving a voice and a face to those who are often rendered voiceless and invisible. His ideas and conclusions have broad implications for the politics of labour, media and the economy: for example, in his discussion of how Donald Trump simultaneously used the media practices of celebrities to build his brand, while humiliating and belittling journalists and the media throughout his presidency.
manufacturing celebrity is a book for students of contemporary ethnicity, culture, and media as well as those interested in sociopolitical discourses regarding celebrity culture in the United States. Díaz writes a comprehensive and detailed account of the lives of those who are left out in the process of making fame and incorporates theory without sacrificing human perspective. As Díaz herself writes, “the book provides insight into the work, life, and struggles of journalists and paparazzi, and the impact of their lives and struggles on the media they produce” (250). Its target audience is therefore anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of the intersections between class, race, gender and work.
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Note: This article gives the point of view of the author, and not the position of the USAPP – American Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.
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About the Examiners
Jonathan Pie – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jonathan Pye is a PhD candidate in Hispanic Linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests focus primarily on sociolinguistics, in particular the relationship between language and media. He is also interested in studying the use of language on new media platforms, such as Youtube and TikTok, to understand how content creators create a sense of intimacy and community with their viewers.
Sara Castro Cantu – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sara Castro Cantú is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include Spanish in the United States, bilingualism, and heritage languages. Specifically, her main area of research focuses on how attitudes and other sociolinguistic factors affect language loss in minority communities, particularly among Spanish-English bilingual families living in areas with high levels of language contact. .