In 2019, I co-edited a special issue of the Celebrity Studies Journal with Lindsay Steenberg (Oxford Brookes University) focusing on contemporary film stardom, which was published (online, at least) in December. Many of the essays featured here investigated the ways in which, in recent times, film stars have been using social media in order to maintain their star images and connect with their fans. However, the themes of ageing, agency and the role of new technologies (particularly for established stars) also formed key strands running through the issue. Lindsay and I were delighted with the quality of work that was produced for this edition of the journal, which demonstrated that film studies was not only in very robust health forty years after the original publication of Richard Dyer’s influential Stars (BFI, 1979) but also that increasing numbers of scholars were operating simultaneously within the twin fields of film studies and celebrity studies, producing some really interesting and productive work. This was great to see, especially since occasionally there have been signs that star studies and celebrity studies have been set up as the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford of the humanities – and that would never do!

Not Lindsay and I, not even Celebrity Studies and Star Studies, but Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in a modified publicity image for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

The introductory essay that Lindsay and I wrote for our special issue ‘Where is the Star?’ (Volume 10, Issue 4: December 2019) can be accessed on line here:

For this issue, we assembled ten essays (some being 7,000 words and others half that length) from a mixture of established and emerging scholars. This encompassed a wide range of stars, from relative youngsters like Dakota Fanning and James Franco to oldies like Sylvester Stallone and Jane Fonda. This created a pretty good balance of male and female stars, as well as mainstream and indie stars. In the end, however, we really needed more ethnical and racial diversity, as well as a more international cast of writers and stars. This suggests that we still have a long way to go in our field (and the twin sub-disciplinary fields of Celebrity Studies and Star Studies) before we can successfully achieve anything like a fair and representative investigation into film stardom. Hopefully, it won’t take another forty years to achieve that.

Jane Fonda, as radical in 2020 as she was when Richard Dyer wrote about her in the late 1970s.


Where is the Star?

  1. Martin Shingler and Lindsay Steenberg, ‘Introduction: Star Studies in mid-life crisis’
  2. Sarah Thomas, ‘The Star in VR’
  3. Peter Turner, ‘Fast marketing, furious interactions: an interstellar community on Instagram’ 
  4. Dan Ward, ‘“Know Your Role”: Dwayne Johnson and the performance of contemporary stardom
  5. Mark McKenna, ‘Sylvester Stallone and the economics of the ageing film actor’
  6. Alberto Mira, ‘Controlling the narrative: On Jane Fonda’s Third Act’
  7. Moya Luckett, ‘Dakota Fanning: (good) girl star’
  8. Felicity Chaplin, ‘Stars and the off-screen spectacle of film festivals: Charlotte Gainsbourg at Cannes’
  9. Joshua Gulam, ‘Save the world with Ben and Matt: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and the importance of film texts to critical discussions of star campaigning’
  10. Donna Peberdy, ‘Sorry I couldn’t be here: performative celebrity meltdown and para-stardom’
  11. James Morrison, ‘James Franco and the queer art of failure’

Leading the way: Former wrestler, now actor and producer, Dwayne Johnson, one of the Fast and Furious crew, star of action movies and comedies for adults and children, as well as a big noise on social media.

The whole issue can be accessed online here:

Interior. Leather Bar. (2013), co-written, co-directed, co-produced and co-starring James Franco, queer but straight dilettante and industrious slacker.

See abstract for James Morrison’s brilliant essay on James Franco for more details of the above: