Caribbean: New Media & Celebrity Fascination

The fascination with celebrities has always been at a fever pitch, but in the current age of new media and consumer-generated content, it’s at an all-time high. Now that everyone – from the established media outlets to the average Joe – can share content via blogs and social networking sites, celebrities have found themselves under increased scrutiny. Celebrity blogs are some of the most popular sites on the Internet, with some attracting millions of readers per month. Online, sex, gossip and celebrity sells.

Celebrity interest is not geographically isolated either. The true mark of a celebrity is their ability to attract interest from people of all walks of life, and nationalities. International superstars such as Rihanna, Usain Bolt (hailing from Barbados and Jamaica respectively), Michael Jackson, and Tiger Woods have all provided blog-worthy material over the last year, fueling content and traffic for many sites. While Caribbean bloggers do not tend to overly focus on gossip, they also sometimes focus on the current story at hand. Take the current Tiger Woods controversy for example; blogs from several corners of the earth (including the Caribbean!) are covering it, but the really interesting part is to see it expressed through the eyes of different cultures.

Bajan-born and bred blogger, Jdid, who currently resides in Toronto, gave his special spin on it, complete with colourful dialect:

“Wuhloss the people doing dixie wid the Tiger talk!

Everywhere ya going is speculation and accusation and talk about the murderation that Tiger wife allegedly inflect on he. Whax, Palax, Bruggadown Brax! Ya wud think she name Bamm Bamm Ruble the way dem say she proficent wid the club. Cuhdear!…

But poor Tiger, this is a perfect example of damned if ya do damned if ya dont. If he give details we going say um sound fishy and if he keep quiet we gine say he covering up. And what to do. Dey claiming he have a outside woman an dat is why the wife lash he. Well ya know how that would look fa he career if u was true? From Cablinasian he and he career would turn black one time. Bye bye endorsements and fans. An he cant as well say boy I did running from the wife who was lashing me wid a 9 iron eidda cause the fellas would laugh and all that invincible aura on the golf course gone through the eddoes too an wid it endorsements and fans. So yes rock and hard place got Tiger trapped proper.”

Meanwhile, Bajegirl recounts the excitement that took over Barbados when Tiger and his wife got married there in 2004 :

“Now, I feel personally insulted. Tiger Woods come down here to Buhbadus to marry Elin. He block up the roads leading up to Sandy Lane and yuh had to detour all bout St. James. He nearly give we heart attack with the fireworks they let off up at the country club on the wedding night. He had paparazzi mekking people miserable trying to climb up pon roofs to get photos (though some locals mek a good buck, don't fool yuh foot). And after all that he got the audacity to cheat pon she? I feel like he cheat pon me, too!”

This Beach Called Life takes a more philosophical approach, pondering on Tiger’s emotional state:

“This situation is unfortunate as nobody stopped to ask Tiger if he found women as exciting as hitting a hole-in-one. Nobody stopped to ask Tiger if he was a normal, unhappy man who found transgression a path to happiness and a necessary part of being found irresistibly sexy by sexy women.”

While Tiger Woods may want privacy during his current turmoil, traditional and new media just won’t let him, especially since almost every news site and blog is only too happy to enable a slew of comments on posts such as these. Not to mention, whether it’s covering the dramatic tales or giving their opinion on how a celebrity should conduct himself or herself, bloggers are only too ready to make their voices heard.

In the Caribbean, it’s no different, and especially when the celebrity in question is one of our own, you’re certain to find criticism and support alike.

New media has certainly catapulted celebrity, giving everyone the opportunity to expose celebrity missteps or to offer their opinions on how celebrities should live their life. Pop star Rihanna, arguably one of the Caribbean’s most viable entertainment exports, is a perfect example of how obsessed news outlets and bloggers alike have become in order to supply an equally fascinated public with the latest news.

Even before the reported incident with Chris Brown in February, she was fair game for blogs. In the aftermath it seems to have escalated, and her daily activities are constantly analysed by many, especially those at home. When she wore a revealing outfit and breast pasties at Fourth of July celebrations earlier this year in the US, Bajan blogs went afire, especially as she’s also an official Ambassador for Youth and Culture for the country.

Barbados Free Press stated:

“When Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson named pop-star and sex symbol Rihanna as our “Ambassador for Culture and Youth”, we had our doubts about the wisdom of this political move – for a political move is exactly what it was…

“Don’t get me wrong here, folks: Rihanna is an adult. She can wear whatever she wants to wear.

She can show titty and tattoo guns all over her body…. That’s her business.

But when she is our “Ambassador for Culture and Youth” and shows up dressed in a way that no father could say he was proud of, then it is the business of the people of Barbados.”

Ian Bourne of Bajan Reporter questions whether she should even be an official ambassador for Barbados:

“It is about time for this current administration to ask Ms Fenty to resign from the Global Diplomatic assignment, or rescind or revoke it quite vocally so as to salvage some form of reputation on the world scene, as we are now party to a planetary laughing stock as she spins wildly out of control…”

Bourne also questions whether her experience with Chris Brown has changed her forever. From a different vantage point, when the news first broke of the assault, US-based Trini blogger Afrobella had to contend with the stereotypical views of Caribbean women that commenters were leaving on blogs about the Rihanna incident.

There are some who argue that this sort of scrutiny is the price that celebrities pay for their fortune. However, Signifyin’ Guyana feels a bit differently about exposing celebrities, expressing the view that no one likes their dirty secrets revealed, especially when they can cause irreparable damage:

“I'd like to think most people who've ever held an embarrassing personal secret close to their chests, hearts, or wherever they chose to hold it, or people who have had such a secret exposed, would understand the mercy of TMI – too much information please!

Not true if you're fully fixed on American popular culture and its burgeoning fare of reality TV, which compete fiercely to see who can succeed in exposing the most cringingly embarrassing detail of someone's life.

And it gets a little more complicated when the exposure seems voluntary as in the case of reality TV and social networking sites–Facebook, blogs, Twitter and the like – doesn't it?  Relatively ordinary folk can and do become minor or major celebrities on some of these shows / sites.

So here's a question for you: if someone discovers something…umm juicy let's say… about that ordinary-person-turned-celebrity's life, should he or she publish it claiming fans/ stalkers/ the interested following public have a right to know?  How you answer that question depends on how fass you are, how much you delight in digging into people's business, how much or little you know about the success of lawsuits brought against those who have exposed others, and how much you care about how irreparably damaging (despite being on the winning side of a lawsuit) such exposure can be for that person.”

Regardless of how you answer that question, the current fascination-turned-obsession with celebrities, which has undoubtedly been fuelled by increased new media channels, is in overdrive…


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