Celebrities are people, too… or are they?

More and more, celebrities are taking to social media to convince us that they are people, too. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more have become the new platforms via which huge stars can undermine the paparazzi and post details of their “real” lives.

Yes, those are quotes around the word “real.”

This year’s Emmy Awards brought about a rash of celebrity updates in the form of pictures: Jesse Tyler Ferguson in his underwear, Sofia Vergara’s wardrobe malfunction, Zooey Deschanel getting hair and makeup done, Lena Dunham eating an “Emmy breakfast” of cake, various candid pics in the back of limos, and the requisite “selfies” of entire outfits in mirrors at home.

There’s even an award for the social media celebrity of the year.

By giving us a glimpse into the lives behind the glamour, do these images serve to deconstruct the unattainable notion of celebrity? Or are they yet another carefully curated element of the overall brand of stars, a “Hollywood 2.0” reboot serving to boost their careers?

Sure, most of these moments seem to be genuine, with actors goofing around between takes on set, or snapping pics of their kids at home. And the immediacy of social media means that more than a few off-the-cuff Twitter posts have had to be later retracted. But I can’t help but wonder if more than a few publicists have had their hand in sculpting the images of the private lives of stars. Even bad publicity is good publicity, right?

So what does all this mean for the sheen of celebrity? Could this be the beginning of the end of idolizing stars for their bodies, their makeup, their hair? Maybe the effect of seeing celebrities as people will mean fewer young girls will go to unhealthy lengths to emulate them.

Or maybe it will just increase our voyeuristic fascination with seeing even more of the hyper-real lives of already private people. I’m still on the fence. You?

Tessa Needham finished her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She teaches computers and does freelance creative work: www.tessaneedham.com.

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