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Legendary life on the street: 'Blanket Man' and contemporary celebrity

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Nowadays, personal elements are far less important than the means of transmitting news about the noteworthy. The Internet has been important in this regard, but this process began well before its advent. Nevertheless, the rise of new media may have the consequence that the term 'hero' is no longer relevant for study. Situations where individuals within a community accrue fame through the oral transmission of stories about their deeds may be few and far between. Are we now living in an 'age of celebrity' that effectively means the demise of the hero? In the present article, we use a case study of 'Blanket Man' - an iconic Wellington street dweller - to reflect upon these important questions. Material presented comes from both detailed observational fieldwork and media sources. We argue that Blanket Man is literally a Wellington 'urban legend'; however, it is not clear what celebrity term best describes his situation, because the way he has become well known certainly does not fit the existing models of celebrity creation. Much commentary places a dominant emphasis on the 'media'; we highlight the continued importance of the spatial routines and face-to-face interaction of everyday life in the construction of this locally legendary character.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Victoria University of Wellington, Sociology & Social Policy, Wellington, New Zealand

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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