In an interview she gave to Marie Claire in June 2016, the American singer, actress and producer Selena Gomez, aged twenty-three at the time and enduring relentless media scrutiny, insisted, ‘I don’t want people to look at me as someone who is just this celebrity person.’ Gomez’s desire to be respected for her achievements illustrates perfectly Sharon Marcus’s assertion in The Drama of Celebrity that modern commentators and consumers frequently link celebrity with ‘superficiality, artifice, and irrationality’. Marcus goes so far as to suggest that ‘many now equate celebrity with worthlessness’. She believes that, while the evaluation of merit has always been at the core of celebrity culture, the manner in which we value celebrity, often through the prism of gender, has shifted. Successful women threaten long-established hierarchies. Consequently, a male celebrity remains more likely to be considered deserving of fame than his female counterpart. A female celebrity, Marcus states, is ‘likely to find her success derided and dismissed’, even when it is the ‘result of exceptional talent’.
Marcus, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, is already held in high regard for her perceptive analysis of the cultural assignment of value in fields as diverse as literary theory and architecture. In this insightful and engaging examination of celebrity culture, she breaks with