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The construction of a celebrity and her pet: a case study of Paris Hilton and Tinkerbell
Örebro universitet, Institutionen för humaniora, utbildnings- och samhällsvetenskap. (HumAnimal Group)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9902-1191
2010 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Paris Hilton, heiress of the Hilton hotel chain fortune, is well-known from several reality-TV shows, a music career, and frequent appearances in tabloids all over the world. Often by her side, the Chihuahua Tinkerbell has become one of the world’s most famous now living pets, and she is the author of her biography, written in first person singular. The relation between Hilton and Tinkerbell seems almost archetypical – it appears to be the perfect incarnation of the bourgeois pet-owner, moving her dog around in an expensive handbag as an accessory without any regard to the real pet behind the Gucci collar. Nevertheless, there is a peculiar focus on Tinkerbell in different forms of celebrity media; people seem to be especially moved by this dog and her destiny.In a discourse analysis of books, tabloid articles, reality show episodes, interviews and images from celebrity magazines, it is shown that imagery and text cooperate to produce Tinkerbell as a person. This is done through a number of different discursive techniques and among them is the linguistic prosthesis. This concept refers to the way people speak for animals, i.e. ascribe them a voice in first person singular, and it is often done in order to make sense of the animal’s behavior. By giving an animal a voice, the animal is made intoan active, social subject, but in the case of Tinkerbell, the voice of the produced canine subject is often heavily normative. It is used to criticize her mistress’ sometimes unreliable behavior, to question the mistreatment of pets, and to express a general critique against life in the lap of luxury. In the interplay between text and pet a certain form of common sense is produced and disseminated.The discussion is divided in two sections. First, it is argued that popular media’s fixation with Tinkerbell stems from the way the pet as a social phenomenon trifle with common dichotomies such as nature/culture, authenticity/simulation, wilderness/civilization, speech/speechlessness, child/adult and poor/rich. Second, the relation between representations of animals in media, such as wildlife films and TV-shows on dog-training and veterinary clinics, is discussed in relation to the epistemology of the reality show genre.

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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-261594OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-261594DiVA: diva2:850677
Animal Movements Moving Animals, Uppsala universitet 27-28 maj 2010
Available from: 2014-02-27 Created: 2015-09-02 Last updated: 2015-09-02

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