Blogging for HONS 201: Feminism, New Media, and Health at Hunter College.
Perez Hilton. TMZ. Oh No They Didn’t. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people log onto their computers, and surf the many celebrity gossip websites. And while they peruse the latest sex scandals and makeup/breakup stories, they interact with the stories – by leaving comments and personal opinions below the articles and blogs, engaging in discussion and debate about the above story.
The public discourse about celebrity bodies is a form of biopower at work. Biopower, as theorized by French philosopher Michel Foucault, refers to the system of policing bodies and behaviors based on a morals-based construction of a “healthy” and normative body. This biopower has taken on a new incarnation with the advent of new media and celebrity culture – something that Jeffrey Jerome Cohen dubbed “Monster Theory.”
Monster Theory hinges on the “Monster:” an individual who’s body and lifestyle does not meet the morals of it’s society, and is subsequently vilified. Perhaps one of the most well-known contemporary monsters of our culture would be Lindsay Lohan – once a beloved child star, now commonly dismissed as a junkie and an addict. Her so-called fall from grace has been widely scorned, documented by every gossip magazine and blog. The brutal criticism and judgement of her lifestyle and her decisions – as well as their effects on her physical appearance – have Othered her, making her a monster.
Of course, the construction of the monster is highly gendered. Consider Charlie Sheen: he’s had an extremely high profile for his history of domestic violence and drug use, as well as for his appearances on Two and a Half Men (aka The Douchebag TV Special). But his treatment by the public and the tabloids has been radically different than that of Lindsay Lohan’s; when she was derided by the public and got a very scathing public letter about her personal life, he got an auto-tuned viral video and a comedy tour. Lindsay was a monster, Charlie Sheen was a laugh.