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Title: The cultural significance of the child star
Author: O'Connor, Jane Catherine
ISNI:       0000 0000 4072 5891
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2006
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This study provides a sociological account of the child star as both a universal and culturally specific phenomenon. Arguing against dominant 'common-sense' definitions of child stars as precociously deviant, I relocate the child star as a product of wider social contradictions and constructions surrounding children and childhood more generally. Through an analysis of the way in which child stars are constructed in the textual media I demonstrate two central and competing discourses in relation to this group - one which focuses on their powerlessness due to their 'abnormal' status in relation to 'normal' children and the other which celebrates their power due to their 'natural' talents and redemptive qualities. These contradictory- positions are identified through a consideration of the historical and mythological antecedents of today's child stars as well as an analysis of the contemporary discourses which inform news stories about such individuals. I argue that such ambiguity towards child stars can be identified as symptomatic of complex attitudes towards children in our society. The hostility which subjectifies child stars and generates powerlessness can be understood as emanating from the habitual association of performing children with precocious sexuality, the commercialisation of childhood and the fear that children are 'growing up too quickly'. In contrast, the adoration of child stars which imbues them with the power to be reinvented with every new generation can be related to a more profound universal need to reify and admire a small number of 'special' children -a practice which is identifiable across the myths and folklore of the world (Jung 1959). By identifying child stars as both powerless and powerful because of their difference to 'normal' children this study exposes how dominant constructions serve to demonise certain experiences of childhood and validate others, as well as highlighting the important role the child star plays in symbolising hope, innocence and futurity in our society.
Supervisor: Jenks, C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available