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Reading Celebrity Gossip Magazines



Reading Celebrity Gossip Magazines

Andrea McDonnell

ISBN: 978-0-745-68218-1 June 2014 Polity 200 Pages



Americans are obsessed with celebrities. While our fascination with fame intensified throughout the twentieth century, the rise of the weekly gossip magazine in the early 2000s confirmed and fueled our popular culture’s celebrity mania. After a decade of diets and dates, breakups and baby bumps, celebrity gossip magazines continue to sell millions of issues each week. Why are readers, especially young women, so attracted to these magazines? What pleasures do they offer us? And why do we read them, even when we disagree with the images of femininity that they splash across their hot-pink covers?

Andrea McDonnell answers these questions with the help of interviews from editors and readers, and her own textual and visual analysis. McDonnell’s perspective is multifaceted; she examines the notorious narratives of celebrity gossip magazines as well as the genre’s core features, such as the "Just Like Us" photo montage and the "Who Wore It Best?" poll. McDonnell shows that, despite their trivial reputation, celebrity gossip magazines serve as an important site of engagement for their readers, who use these texts to generate conversation, manage relationships, and consider their own ideas and values.

Introduction: Celebrity Gossip Magazines in American Popular Culture

1. Gendering Celebrity Gossip

2. All About Us: Celebrity Gossip Magazines and the Female Reader

3. Stars on Earth: The Paradox of Ordinary Celebrity

4. Making Morality Meaningful

5. Ambiguously Truthful

Conclusion: On Pleasure and the Popular



"Andrea McDonnell's sympathetic study of celebrity magazines brings a fresh and original approach to what she calls 'the popular feminine'. With humor and understanding she shows what the magazines mean to their twenty-something readers as they engage with the challenges and contradictions of being female at that particular moment in their lives. An essential read for all students of gender and popular culture."
Paddy Scannell, University of Michigan

"Andrea McDonnell's book is a real treat. Reading Celebrity Gossip Magazines offers a much needed integration and update of the study of women’s popular culture by integrating reader, writer and textual perspectives in a strong analysis."
Joke Hermes, University of Amsterdam

"An outstanding analysis of the explosive rise and appeal of celebrity magazines in the early twenty-first century. Exceptionally well-written, thoughtful and nuanced, this study breaks new ground in identifying the types of visual strategies the magazines deploy, which kinds of normative messages are most salient in them, and why these magazines, despite being recognized as 'trashy', have enormous appeal to young women. Highly recommended."
Susan Douglas, University of Michigan