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The Celebrification of Religion in the age of Infotainment

The Celebrification of Religion in the age of Infotainment

(p.122) 6 The Celebrification of Religion in the age of Infotainment
Consuming Religion
Kathryn Lofton
University of Chicago Press

This chapter offers an account of the emerging centrality of celebrities in public culture. Studying celebrity and religion in concert requires parsing the multiple ways these terms have become increasingly interactive, overlapping, and co-constitutive in modern America. This chapter explores how this has transpired by looking at both the forms of news reporting that have succeeded in recent years and the changed way that religion is publicly discussed. Its focus is the national daily newspaper USA Today, which provides an excellent archive for the relationship between religion and celebrity in the news via its own oft-touted (and oft-satirized) synthetic style, including short articles, cheery cartoon graphics, and intentionally “easy to read” copy. This chapter analyzes the way that entertainment news deploys religious idiom to express something inexpressibly potent in its subject and to translate democratic moral agency in an increasingly privatized corporate media structure. First, it offers a short history of the emergence of infotainment reportage and its corollary, celebrification. It then discusses news coverage of religion and celebrity in three separate periods: 1989–1996, 1997–2003, and 2004–2010.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Taylor, infotainment, celebrification, USA Today, Madonna, Bono, spiritualization, George Clooney

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