The Discreet Charm of the Petite Celebrity: Gender and Lifestyle on “My Super Sweet 16”

Date: October 6, 2009
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The mediated consumer culture represented in MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 articulates a new life stylization that can best be explained as petite celebrity. This paper maps out a new path into celebrity that derives from media and consumer culture where individuals attempt to transform economic capital into the cultural capital and status of celebrity. In the attempts to become celebrities, the texts of the program symbolically place the participants into a petite position. The show’s main participants, mostly teenage girls, reveal through their practices and discourses that petite celebrity relies heavily on gender and codes of femininity for its distinction. The purpose of this research is to examine why this new life stylization relies so heavily on codes of gender for its expression, and what these gendered codes of petite celebrity constituted by the show reveal about broader U.S. consumer and popular culture. I argue that consumption provides the constitutive link between gender performativity and the petite celebrity lifestyle represented in mediated rituals displayed on My Super Sweet 16. A textual analysis of the first season is informed by critical theories of media ritual, feminism and consumption.

Publisher: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 21, 2008
Year of Publication: 2008

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