What are the implications of celebrities 'behaving badly' online?


  • Longina Strumska-Cylwik, Prof. University of Gdańsk, Poland
  • Bert Olivier, Prof. University of the Free State, South Africa




Online communication, Mass communication, Media texts, Communicational interaction, Image studies, Visual communication, Celebrity, Identity studies, Mediated communication


With a specific online article as point of departure, this article1 investigates the phenomenon of “bad behaviour” on the part of so- called “celebrities” online. It focuses on the article in question to be able to show what is at stake, namely, the fact that ordinary people are affected by celebrities’ online actions, specifically in the form of either confusion regarding their own behaviour, or by imitating the actions concerned. This is followed by raising questions regarding online behaviour and “normalisation” and exploring these through the work of relevant authors such as Goffman (2006), Maisonneuve (1995), Huizinga (2007) and others, with a view to make sense of the fact that even supposedly shocking behaviour on the part of celebrities seems to be judged in terms of different criteria compared to everyday actions on the part of ordinary people. The role of advanced electronic technology in affecting people’s behaviour is also noted, before turning to Plato and (particularly) Aristotle’s notion of mimesis (imitation) to be able to understand what might be termed the “celebrity effect”. The related question of identification with the images of celebrities is also briefly examined before concluding with a reference to Boorstin’s (1992) famous account of a “celebrity”.


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