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Sia is opening up about her decision to cast neurotypical Maddie Ziegler in her movie Music. She also addressed backlash she received for seemingly mocking autism in a podcast appearance.
Uses and Gratification Theory
Uses and gratification theory argues that media users are active participants in their own media consumption, and they are in control of how much and to what extent the media impacts them. This is a major departure from previous theories that viewed audiences as passive participants. It also argues that people will seek out media that fulfills or satisfies their needs and interests.
For example, a recent study conducted by Jesse Palmgreen and his colleagues found that motives for sharing comedy news videos on social media were significantly influenced by lifestyles and gratifications obtained. The study employed two methods: interviews and a national telephone survey. Results showed that lifestyles were the strongest predictor of whether a person would share comedy news content, followed by the desire to satisfy their entertainment and interpersonal expression goals. Thrill seeking and disinhibition were negatively associated with comedy news video sharing.
The study used a similar model to investigate differences in people’s use of science, political, and health news. Results also indicated that lifestyles were the strongest predictor of the types of news a person would consume, followed by their desire to satisfy their curiosity or informational needs. The study included a nationally representative sample of 384 individuals ages 19-25 who were surveyed online and through face-to-face interviews.
The research found that people are more interested in entertainment news stories, such as celebrity gossip and reality TV, than they are in more serious topics such as politics and economics. The reason for this is that these stories are more likely to grab the audience’s attention and appeal to their emotions. People want to know what their favorite celebrities are doing and how they’re feeling. This is why many publications focus on sensational celebrity and entertainment news.
The general public currently seems obsessed with media celebrities. This is probably fueled by the endless magazines, websites and newsletters that broadcast these people’s lives. It’s almost impossible to escape it. It’s a little like oxygen to a fire. Keep fueling it and it burns.
The fascination with celebrities has also become a vehicle for political agendas. For example, it’s easy for far-right Internet users to spread baseless conspiracy theories about celebrity deaths. This was the case when rapper Coolio died recently. Immediately, QAnon circles and anti-vaccine groups began spreading false reports that the COVID-19 vaccine killed him.
Celebrity obsession is dangerous to our democracy for two reasons. First, it drowns out discussions of politicians’ problematic actions and makes it easy to gloss over criticisms.