Cultural Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Shooting Stars: Militarization & Celebrity

Rebecca Forrest

Major Professor: Char R Miller, PhD, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

Committee Members: Suzanne Smith, Hugh Gusterson

Enterprise Hall, #418
May 01, 2017, 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM

Abstract:

Celebrity is one of the spaces that militarization colonizes to maintain its public support for its violent ends. This dissertation argues that militarization gains its power from its known, but comfortably overlooked, presence in non-traditional spaces, like celebrity, and occupies a visible/invisible space in American culture due to the saturation of military influence and military themes in popular culture.  The military's colonization of popular culture, a site of soft power, makes militarization appear benign and normal while actually cementing its power socially and culturally.  This dissertation examines the militarization of Joe Louis and Elvis Presley during their active duty military service to explore the military colonization of popular culture and how celebrities have been militarized and colonized in 20th century America.  Louis’s power as a strong, famous Black male was absorbed by and transferred to the military through his service and this power was used in recruiting films and boxing tours of military bases.  Presley and his challenge of race, gender, and sexual norms were also transformed and reframed through his service, especially through the lack of information released by the military while Presley served which was used to show the American public that he was being treated like a regular soldier.  In spite of what Joe Louis and Elvis Presley did for pluralization, the racial violence of the military was not changed through their militarization.

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