Just like us: Everyday celebrity politicians and the pursuit of popularity in an age of anti-politics

Matthew Wood, Jack Corbett, Matthew Flinders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In a supposedly ‘anti-political’ age, the scholarly literature on celebrity politicians argues that politicians gain popularity by adopting strategies from within the world of entertainment. This article offers the findings of a research project that has detected a marked shift in the interplay between celebrity culture and the presentational strategies adopted by politicians. At the heart of this shift is an increased focus on the concept of ‘normality’ as politicians increasingly attempt to shake-off the negative connotations associated with ‘professional politicians’ and instead attempt to appear ‘just like us’. As such, this article offers an original approach by distinguishing between ‘superstar’ celebrity politicians and ‘everyday’ celebrity politicians before identifying three aspects of each strategy (i.e. media platform, marketing technique and performative role). It offers numerous empirical examples that serve to underpin this distinction before using the example of Boris Johnson as a case study in the attempted shift from ‘superstar’ to ‘everyday’ celebrity. This focus on normality offers a fresh entry-point into the analysis of contemporary political statecraft while also posing distinctive questions about the tension between political popularity and credibility in an anti-political age. As such, the approach also has significant implications for normative ideas about how celebrity can be ‘democratised’ to remedy anti-politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-598
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Boris Johnson
  • celebrity politics
  • everyday
  • normality
  • superstar

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