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Celebrity Suicide and the Search for the Moral High Ground: Comparing Frames in Media and Audience Discussions of the Death of a Flemish Celebrity

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Abstract:

Taking a case study and framing approach, this article analyzes media coverage of and (on- and off-line) audience reactions to a gay celebrity's death and its aftermath to see how it triggers discussion about socially and ethically sensitive issues. It starts from the assumption that the celebrity construct is not just a commodity but also acts as a forum to discuss social and ethical issues, norms, and values. Media coverage of the suicide of Flemish singer Yasmine is revealed to be dominated by frames relating to the soap of life (especially divorce), the celebrity's status as a lesbian icon, and her position as a victim of abuse, with framing differing according to media and journalistic style. Audience reactions do not simply mimic these frames, but are mediated in different ways by personal experiences, peers, and parasocial relationships, resulting in active negotiations of the media frames, even creating counter-frames, particularly regarding the act of suicide and the gay status of the celebrity.

Keywords: Celebrity culture; Media and moral debate; Media culture; Online reception; Parasocial relationships

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2011.645496

Publication date: March 1, 2013

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