Star studies
in Beginning film studies (second edition)
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While the emergence of stars postdates the emergence of film itself as a medium, they have long been central to its economic prospects and to the cultural and ideological work it does. Hence this chapter introduces and evaluates a number of critical approaches to stardom. It begins by acknowledging the star’s commercial dimension and goes on to explore the political economy of stardom. The two interrelated sections that follow consider star personas, assessing first their elasticity or otherwise, then their relationship to historical contexts (what does a given star’s rise or fall tell us about his or her culture?). Subsequent discussion draws upon psychoanalysis and gender studies in order to consider the complex dynamics that obtain between the star and the spectator. So as to decentralise the Hollywood version of stardom, comparisons follow first with stardom in other filmmaking cultures (including Bollywood), then in such fields as music and sport. The chapter’s concluding case study is of the stardom of Jennifer Lawrence.

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