Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story – 29 December 2020 – 29/12/2020 – Tuesday – BBC Two
Series 1 Episode 1 of 4
Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story is a four-part history series charting the explosion in celebrity culture over the last two decades.
The world of celebrity has been transformed since the turn of the century, driven by some of the most dramatic technological and cultural developments in recent times. From the fame farms churning out reality TV stars to the rise of the celebrity politician, our complicated obsession with fame now impacts every aspect of our lives – from the things we read and watch to what we buy, and even who we vote for.
Today, celebrity is currency, but fame can also come at a cost. We hear from the people pulling the strings and the celebrities themselves as they lift the lid on the inner workings of the fame game.
Charting the first few years of the new millennium, 2000 – 2006, the first episode examines the phenomenon in the early noughties that saw a whole host of people from everyday backgrounds transformed, overnight, into celebrities.
The Beckhams were, at the time, Britain’s most beloved showbiz couple, and their wedding netted them an unprecedented £1 million magazine deal. They represented a new type of mega-star: talented, popular, but ultimately relatable. The Beckhams were both from ordinary backgrounds; save for a brace of Brit Awards and a cracking right foot, they were just like the rest of us.
The turn of the century heralded the dawn of reality TV powerhouses like Big Brother and Pop Idol – TV formats which would prove so popular that they would dominate our viewing habits for decades to come. They made their creators millions and created a new generation of celebrities, from Gareth Gates to ‘Nasty’ Nick Bateman. Celebrity magazines sprang up; the tabloids suddenly had affordable stars to fill their papers, and the front pages of the British press were featuring more and more of these newly minted celebrities.
People were making money hand over fist, with TV producers, broadcasters and press alike all finding ways to monetise the public’s newfound appetite for celebrity. People were packaged like products, but sometimes they found ways to get in on the act and profit from their own, newly raised profiles. Glamour girl Jordan grasped every opportunity going, and in a few short years managed to transform herself from page three girl to household name.
But not everyone whose privacy was swapped for profile had a choice. This was a time of significant technological change. When Paris Hilton’s sex tape found its way onto the internet, the rules of the fame game were changed forever. She became the most famous woman in the world, and nothing was off limits. The boundaries and expectations for a generation of young women were thrown into question.
The sex scandal had been rebooted for the 21st century, and while Paris successfully carved out a career for herself in the public eye after the furore around her video died down, not everyone subjected to the same types of scrutiny survived the celebrity maelstrom. Rebecca Loos’ celebrity career was kick-started by an alleged liaison; tabloid scandals were nothing new, but only at this exact moment would an England hero’s supposed squeeze step out of the front pages and slip into a ready-made celebrity skin. The fame factory may have seemed inviting for a time, and at first lucrative offers came in thick and fast, but as so often, the single woman at the heart of an alleged affair with a married man found the moral tide turn against her.
In a few short years, celebrity had become currency, and in 2006 things came full circle when Celebrity Big Brother – a vehicle created to turn ordinary people into celebrities but now pitching celebrities as ordinary people – took average joe Paris Hilton lookalike Chantelle Houghton, sent her into the house to pretend to be a celebrity… and she won. The celebrity bubble had expanded beyond all reason, as had our appetite for the newly famous. Entire industries had emerged and adapted to monetise the trend. But when the commodity being cashed in on is people’s lives, for some, there is a hefty price to pay.
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About Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story
History series charting the explosion in celebrity culture.
This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Latest Episodes of Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story
- Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story – 1 January 2021 – 1/1/2021 – Friday – BBC Two
- Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story – 31 December 2020 – 31/12/2020 – Thursday – BBC Two
- Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story – 30 December 2020 – 30/12/2020 – Wednesday – BBC Two
- Celebrity: A 21st-Century Story – 29 December 2020 – 29/12/2020 – Tuesday – BBC Two
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