Being and Television: Producing the Demand to Individualise
Consumer culture addresses us with various forms of a demand to ‘be ourselves’. Ostensibly an emancipatory call, how can it be expressed in the form of a demand? This article enquires after the role of television in producing this demand. It is represented in its most contradictory form in the Big Brother format. The allusion of the show to an authoritarian regime is realised in a capricious game, whose goal, as the participants recurrently explain, is “to be themselves”. It is not coincidental that this articulation of a demand for authenticity in the language of a regime is represented on television. The article argues that Big Brother stages a demand that the medium of television addresses at its viewers, as manifested by the institution of the celebrity. Using Daniel Boorstin’s conceptualisation of the celebrity as a substitute for the traditional hero, the article presents the celebrity as a focal point of an ethical demand that television addresses towards its viewers. A new form of celebrity, namely “the ordinary celebrity”, suggests that it is a demand to be oneself as distinct from others. In this sense, television plays a crucial role in post-Fordist economy, maintaining a context where being true to oneself entails expressing one’s difference from others through consumption.
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