90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Strange Power Of Celebrity

From Chaplin and Brando, to the Kardashians, a fresh take on the strange and ferocious power of celebrity.

Kris Jenner, left, with Sofia Vergara, center, and Kim Kardashian during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner headlined by late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel, Saturday, April 28, 2012 in Washington. (AP)

Kris Jenner, left, with Sofia Vergara, center, and Kim Kardashian during the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner headlined by late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel, Saturday, April 28, 2012 in Washington. (AP)

Here’s an information age conundrum:  the more media and info-means we get, the more we stare at celebrities.  Polar ice cap melting?  What’s up with Lindsay Lohan?  Wildfires in the West?  How’s Tom Cruise?  The movies made our biggest modern celebs.  Icons.  But it goes all the way back.  Gods and goddesses.

Archetypes.  We still almost worship.  We find our identities in their poses.  And now, with Facebook and You Tube and Twitter, we’re all little celebs in our own minds.

This hour, On Point:  Movie maven Ty Burr on the strange and ferocious power of celebrity.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ty Burr, film critic for the Boston Globe, and author of the new book Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame. He’s also author of the 50 Movie Starter Kit.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “Any Hollywood history can describe a star’s X factor. But not many film historians can see the whole equation as Ty Burr does in “Gods Like Us,” his lively and provocative chronicle of the genesis of movie stars and the metamorphosis of movie stardom. He offers original thinking about the audience factor.”

Wall Street Journal “Montesquieu accused the ancient Greek philosopher Xenophanes of implying that if triangles had gods, they would be triangular. A later wit remarked, “Yes, but they would also have one more side than ordinary triangles.” The 20th century’s deification of movie stars depended on the public’s idea that they were just like everyone else, only taller and more beautiful.”

Boston Globe “We misunderstand Tom Cruise at our peril. We have recast him, in the movie of our minds, as a couch-jumping, Scientology-pumping, Katie-Holmes-kidnapping buffoon, a living symbol of the rot of celebrity.”

Excerpt

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 1, 2014
Pro-democracy protesters hold umbrellas under heavy rain in a main street near the government headquarters in Hong Kong late Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. The protesters demanded that Hong Kong's top leader meet with them on Tuesday and threatened wider actions if he did not, after he said China would not budge in its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub. (AP)

China, democracy and Hong Kong. They’re in the streets in Hong Kong with their “Umbrella Revolution.” What now?

Oct 1, 2014
Actress Eva Longoria, center, Henry R. Munoz III, co-founder of the Latino Victory Project, left, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, are seated at an event launching The Latino Victory Project, a Latino political action committee, at the National Press Club in Washington, Monday, May 5, 2014. (AP)

Latino America. It is very large and growing very fast. How will it move the country?

RECENT
SHOWS
Sep 30, 2014
In this Jan. 15, 2013, photo, Rosser Pryor, Co-owner and President of Factory Automation Systems, examines a new high-performance industrial robot at the company's Atlanta facility.  (AP)

Nicholas Carr says automation, all over, is turning us into zombies. Out of touch with the world. He’s with us.

 
Sep 30, 2014
St. Louis county police officers advance on protestors trying to shut down Interstate 70 in Berkeley, Mo. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014 near the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. where Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year old was shot and killed by a white police officer on Aug. 9. (AP)

Police shootings, cop culture, body cameras. And the big debate over how to protect the public and the police.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Transcript: Taking A Close Look At America’s Police Force
Wednesday, Oct 1, 2014

A partial transcript of our panel conversation with experts on the modern American police force.

More »
Comment
 
Transcript: Peter Thiel Wants Us All To Go From ‘Zero To One’
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel on innovation, technological failure and humanity’s uncertain future.

More »
Comment
 
Transcript: Sexual Violence Under ISIS Control
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

A transcript from our September 25, 2014 conversation on the Islamic State and sexual violence.

More »
Comment