Media & Communication Department

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Karla Auermuller Karla Auermuller
A Wrinkle in the Shock Culture Timeline: New Focus on Celebrity Lifestyle

A notable feature of 20th century popular entertainment is its "shock culture," consisting of outrageous events and behaviors in the celebrity arena. Dating back to Elvis Presley and his sexy shaking hips, shock culture is anything that raises eyebrows the highest. For decades, the public attention focused on these events, ranging from the gender-bending presence of Marilyn Manson to the NC-17 Superbowl half-time show featuring Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. In recent years, however, the public has witnessed a decline in shock publicity, alongside an increased focus on the "mundane" lives of celebrities. This paper traces the history of shock culture to its recent fall-off, and explores the new emphasis on the everyday lives of celebrities. The transition is documented through a close reading of People magazine covers.