Stars matter because they act out aspects of life that matter to us, and performers get to be stars when what they act out matters to enough people. Though there is a sense in which stars must touch on things that are deep and constant features of human existence, such features never exist outside a culturally and historically specific context.
–Richard Dyer, Heavenly Bodies
Hollywood stars are a locus for cultural values, and specific star images can reflect a wide range of ideologies, including beliefs related to success, work, wealth, politics, rebellion, or love, for example. The stars charismatic personae invariably reflect societys understandings of masculinity and femininity, and they can also address race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
This assignment asks you to analyze the public image of one contemporary Hollywood star through the texts that make up his or her image. Present your findings in a first-person, thesis-driven essay that 1) explores one or two of your stars main themes and that 2) links those themes to some aspect of American culture. Be sure to discuss at minimum:
A) three photographic images (promotional or publicity images of any kind)
B) four texts in which the author characterizes or describes the traits of a star (onscreen, offscreen or both) These texts can be any combination of the following:
analytical think pieces (like those about Anne Hathaway from the star image overview slides).
magazine, newspaper or website feature articles based on interviews with a star (examples: articles about Lakeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya at the end of the Morgan Freeman slides).
reviews of the stars performances in films (for example, the reviews cited in our Morgan Freeman article or in the slides about Keanu Reeves).
C) the stars roles in at least two films.
Incorporating more texts than this minimum will make your analysis more persuasive, and our slides survey many different kinds of star texts not listed above. Document the texts you discuss by providing links for them either in the body of the paper, footnotes or a works cited page; how you do it is up to you. Because Jennifer Lawrence, Morgan Freeman, Keanu Reeves, Lupita Nyongo, and Reese Witherspoon are covered in our course materials, their images are not eligible for the assignment.
Star image papers will be evaluated for their analytical focus, for the extent to which their analyses are supported with star image texts, and for the coherence and clarity with which these goals are addressed. Popularity is not a theme: all stars are popular and a strong analytical focus emphasizes the themes of a star image that are distinctive to him or her. Above all, keep in mind that the assignment is not a biography.
*This 5-7 page length refers to the amount of writing, not images. Feel free to include images that you discuss, but dont count them as part of the page limit. As always, write as much as you need to.