Technological taxidermy: Recognisable faces in celebrity deaths
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Abstract In contemporary celebrity culture it would appear that there is a media obsession with exposing all facets of lifestyles pertaining to the famous. It is not surprising, therefore, that a similar preoccupation is evident when the famous die, and narratives surrounding the deaths of Jade Goody, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson in 2009 alone are sources of continued fascination within visual culture. This paper investigates how death is made visible whilst documenting dead celebrities and questions whether the camera discloses all facets relating to the presence of death. Using news coverage of George Best's death in November 2005 and Princess Diana in September 1997, this study highlights an embalming process that is the essence of most media coverage when celebrities die. In order to develop these issues, the study will also deconstruct the visibility of the celebrity corpse in the postmortem image of Marilyn Monroe, Diana's spectral resurrection in the promotional image of The Queen (Harries, Langan, & Frears, 2006) and examine the aesthetic representation of Jade Goody's face-in-death. Contrary to Foltyn's (2008) premise that the corpse has become ?the star of the show? (p. 153) within media representations, this study suggests that when celebrities die, it is generally their living incarnation that assumes centre stage in media coverage. The authentic face of death is primarily displaced in favour of a recognisable famous visage that assumes characteristics of the immortal.
Mortality, volume 15, issue 2, p138-153
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