Научно електронно списание за медии, PR, журналистика, бизнес комуникация и реклама
Брой 38/ Ноември 2018 г.
19 Декември 2018 г., Сряда

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Politics and pop culture

Брой 19 / Януари 2014 г.
Медии и обществени комуникации

Prof. DSc Lubomir Stoykov

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Summary:

 Politics and pop culture

 Celebrity and communicative perspectives of the modern politician
 
Prof. D.Sc. Lubomir Stoykov
 
The article discusses the relationship between politics and popular culture in the context of celebrities and the communicative perspectives of modern politicians. The ambition of the author is to emphasize the peculiarities of politicians, such as media heroes, stars and idols. This text corresponds to political achievements and the so-called "Politainment". It outlines the main reasons and reasons why the public perceives a politic as a star and, in particular, its needs for accessibility and trust, realism and authenticity, entertainment and diversity. The article is grounded in the case of public behaviour of world political celebrities such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair, as well as case studies related to famous Bulgarian politicians. Among the conclusions, he argues that in order to be able to construct, impose and develop his / her public picture, the politician must be familiar and perceived by the audience in his / her human and informal nature. Popular culture, lifestyle and all possible entertainment mechanisms predict the communicative perspectives of the modern politician. His transformation into a star, coupled with its political competence and rational and pragmatic actions, is a prerequisite for his qualitative manifestation and fulfilment of his main mission - to be a complete leader, to serve the people`s and the state`s interests.
 
Keywords: politics, show business, mass culture, pop culture, public relations, political communication, political behaviour, image, politainment, political performance, charisma, glory, popularity 
 
 
       Today`s celebrities focus on the attention of traditional and non-traditional admirers; spark scientific and non-professional disputes over the role of media stars; lead the value tables of the dreams and the expectations of the majority of people; they become the primary goal of life realization, fun and prosperity ... * What is the place of politics - a star in this whole spectrum of fame? What is the basis of the mechanisms and technologies for fabricating popular politicians? What are the public`s motives for the emotional and aesthetic recognition of a policy of raising it to a star?
            In modern culture and media, comparatively recently, the relationship between mass culture, show business, celebrity and personality of politics has been seen. Some authors, such as the British political scientist John Street, integrate the methodologies of political science on the one hand and the practices of popular and mass culture on the other, in order to reveal more fully the essence and characteristics of politicians, such as media heroes, stars and even poems . It justifies the need for the analysis of political figures and their public behavior to take into account the "aesthetic character of representative relations", incl. and their attractiveness, style, authenticity, etc. The relationship between politics and popular culture is extremely important and undeservedly undervalued. That is why it is legitimate to consider "political representation as a cultural act which seeks to realize a form of political attractiveness through behavior and images borrowed from popular culture." [1] Once it is clear that the political performance is part of the popular culture, or vice versa - popular culture is part of the political performance, it is logical to look for the closeness, similarity and coincidence of the techniques of building a public image in one and the other.
It is obviously the memorable (either with extravagant behavior, appearance, or verbal communication) the holding of politically engaged people - leaders or candidate leaders. Quite often, they use the techniques of pop and rock stars, sports celebrities, or cinema stars. In these well-behaved (not without the influence of image makers and PR consultants) replies, behavioral acts, unusualities and mania, the ambition not only to attract the attention of the audience, not only to make it look "from another point of view" , but also to be exalted, to show a "festive" reaction. In the public appearances of foreign politicians such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Silvio Berlusconi or popular public politicians such as Boyko Borisov and Yane Yanev, for example, there are many features that speak for a short distance with the audience, a suppressed pathos, humor or sarcasm. far from the sophisticated irony and good-natured laughter.
            It is fair, however, to respect another interpretation of the relationship politician - popular culture: the risk of profanation of politics and devaluation of representative democracy. When the public expects politics to have more fun than to discuss with it the priority social and human issues, it is very real danger that this is how to circumvent the most important mission of the political subject. We cannot disagree with the statement that "the danger to a policy that presents itself as a" star "is that it will not be taken seriously. Therefore, if the political system adopts such a strategy of personality presenting, it risks to discredit its overall performance. This possibility bothers those who criticize the politics of "securing" politics. "[2] The danger of profanation of political life through the absolutisation of secularization can be tainted and prevented through competent, professional and flexible public communication, the main goal of which is to achieve trust between the political player and the public as well as the maximum protection of public interests.
It is also worth noting the concept of Australian culturologist David Marshall about the stars in contemporary culture, in which he interprets the renown according to the correlation of a personal - public sphere. Discovery about individuality is key to understanding today`s political celebrities. As Marshall points out: "Most importantly, celebrities represent the breakdown of the distinction between personal and public. This disintegration, as presented by the celebrities, has acquired a special form. The personal sphere is constructed as the ultimate field of truth and the significance of every manifestation in the public sphere ... Formation of a public subject is reduced to different psychological motives, microvascular effects, expression of family interests or traits of character. "[3] It is the personal sphere of politics that is becoming an increasingly attractive center for the media and for ordinary people. Their interest in the political lifestyle - their personal life, their entertainment, what they do in their free time, what cultural interests they have, what their style of dressing, who are the dominant in their everyday culture is growing avalanche.
The mass audience or even the fans of political players are increasingly demanding and expecting from the media escalation of games, reality formats and recreational forms in general. They sympathize with those politicians who break the stereotypes and clichés typical of the publicly involved people, namely, dryness, pedanticity, uniformity, boring, triviality, etc. The audience welcomes and pays tribute (love, sympathy, affection, consistency) subjects to whom "nothing human is alien to them". Fans of attractive politicians are often enthusiastic about their lateral rather than their fundamental abilities and professional commitment. They are genuinely enjoying and entertaining with Vladimir Putin`s skill in karate, with Vladimir Zhirinovsky`s ability to sing - with a rather temperamental - Russian part and blatny songs, with Bill Clinton`s attractive saxophone performances, with Tony Blair`s guitar performances , with Barack Obama`s golf skills, who recently faced the world star Tiger Woods. Do not forget to note the American president`s basketball skills.
            Bulgarian political subjects also fit into the overall picture of this kind of celebrity. Petar Stoyanov and George Ganchev show a respectable level of mastery of the guitar; Sergey Stanishev - rocker bias towards powerful motorcycles; Boyko Borisov - Total dedication to games such as court tennis and football (his loyalty to the "Bistrites Tigers" became proverbial even with the highly criticized trips of the local / rural team to the government plane).
There are many touch points between rock stars and popular political leaders. For both the audience and others, she has a remarkable similarity in asking for approval and praise. Positive chants, clattering with flowers and presents, queues for autographs, striving in any way to touch the idol - these are publicly displayed signs of liking. Curious coincidences in the forms of expression of this sympathy of admirers and followers are noticed in a comparison of the way audiences refer to pop artists and politicians. An example is the legendary singer Tom Jones, who was packed with his fancy underwear at concerts on stage. In our time, such gestures of admiration and admission (with bikini bursts) have garnered Peruvian politician Charles Sevalos, mayor-candidate in the province of Maine (the Amazon basin). Initially, Sevalos himself was amazed and slightly confused by this female madness, but later explained it all with the love of his voters.
            Interesting is also the thesis of the American political scientist of Bulgarian origin Richard Tempest about the influence of the political body (appearance, charisma, radiance, background, etc.) on society. He pays special attention to the charisma, considering it simultaneously as a physiological and cultural phenomenon and its specifics and peculiarities. According to Tempest, charisma may be hot (Boris Yeltsin, Hugo Chavez); warm (Mihail Gorbachev, Boyko Borisov); cool (Pierre Trudo, Barack Obama) and cold (Margaret Thatcher, Vladimir Putin). "And there is a whole category of politicians - mostly American - with a plastic look that reminiscent of Ken`s doll, a long-time partner of the popular Barbie. These are men with unnatural youthful faces, so uncharacteristic that they leave the impression that they lack a basic organ. At the same time, leaders in the political sphere of the Western world are leaders of the managerial type. These are not inspired charismatic chiefs, but experienced party apparatchiks and technocrats: David Cameron, Angela Merkel, François Hollande. And if President-elect Mitt Romney gives (not) a bright example of both trends at the same time, charismatics Boyko Borisov and Vladimir Putin challenge them in a spectacular way - warm or cold respectively. Even more interesting would be the thesis of the conflict - visible or invisible, between physiological and cultural in the political body, and it is worth doing a deeper analysis to explain the cases of political failure and party failure despite the charisma, warmth and communicativeness of relevant leaders.
Politicians are becoming more and more often alone or with the help of media consultants "reaching out to fame, looking for new and new techniques and technologies to enhance their popularity, knowingly or subconsciously imitating the behavior of stars from showbiz. All their efforts for glory would, however, remain futile if the audience (some would say the electorate or the crowd) did not identify them as their leaders, as their representatives or, quite directly, "as their own people." There are several reasons for the public to recognize politics and, in particular, to promote it to star status. In this case we are interested in the motives stemming from the need for accessibility and trust, realism and authenticity, entertainment and diversity. Let`s take a look at each of these needs, which underpin the motives of "supportive" and "stimulating" public behavior towards politics.
 
1. Accessibility and trust
Proponents of one or another politician are enthusiastic about their support for him when he is accessible, grounded and reminiscent of ordinary people. Tools for such accessibility can be different communication forms. First of all - the language of communication. It is a trivial but, at the same time, very true that politicians who manage to overcome high-level phrases, abstract and supposedly high-level expressions, verbal clichés, etc. are more like the audience. Simplified vocabulary, colorful language, comprehensible examples and arguments do a great job in this respect. Trust is born when a socially engaged person simplifies and does not simplify his vocabulary. Trust is present when she not only says what she thinks, but also when she thinks what she says.
In Bulgaria, some of the "political stars" tried to attract attention and approval with bored, Babaite speech; with arrogant intonation; with failed "bad guy" imitations. They failed, or - more precisely, they only managed to temporarily mislead and deceive some of the public opinion. The reason for this was that they falsely played the role of "bad boys." The bad guys are not those who speak badly, and especially those who oppose the status quo, live in an original way and who, even in some mess, keep a sense of justice, honor, dignity, courage and romance.
The dress code in political communication should not be absolutized, but in no case underestimated or eliminated. The audience`s attitude towards the style and exterior of politicians is ambivalent. On the one hand, she rightly looks with suspicion and mistrust on too luxurious, expensive clothing, which goes into sharp dissonance with the existential capabilities of most people. On the other hand, it is rightly set off when public figures are dressed inappropriately for different occasions - especially for state and political ceremonies, rituals and other official events.
It is true that Bulgarian politicians dress today much more adequately than in the 1990s and the first decade of the XXI century. The distinction between formal and informal, expensive and inexpensive is becoming clearer. The time of the white towel was over, they were only for the tennis players. Politicians approach realistically to the obnoxious, but continue to admit two major gaffes. The first is that sometimes their clothing or accessories are too expensive. It is against the political morality of having a watch for 10,000 euros when people are miserable. The second gaffer is in the mismatch between functionality and aesthetics. Do not go to a construction site too formal or too careless at a strict protocol meeting. The tangle between official and everyday is especially characteristic of today`s politicians.
Women in responsible positions have learned to pay attention to the selection of accessories and hairstyles, to harmonize colors and styles. The dresser, however, is interpreted by everyone as he exported. Those who fear experiments are clinging to classic clothing and are not wrong. The disadvantage of Bulgarian politicians is that they rarely turn to image makers and stylists and do not use the advice of specialists such as strategic clothing consultants. When asked a while ago by the Presa newspaper how will I comment on the fact that National Assembly President Tsetska Tsacheva has appeared in a public place on bermuda (short summer pants), I replied that in principle pants are not forbidden at public events of female politicians. It is, however, obligatory to combine with a jacket as long as the colors are killed. If the combination is gender, its length should be moderate and wear pantyhose and the most fierce heat. But the Bermudas are absolutely forbidden in politics! Even when it comes to mountaineering or walking to the beach, a gentle age-balanced balance must be sought. The public performance of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who in a yellow T-shirt is present at the ceremony for the opening of the monuments of generals Georgi and Vladimir Vazov in Sopot on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Balkan War, can not be admired.
Another issue is when the politician in the direct sense of the word is close to people - at work, on construction (including motorways), accidents or disasters. It is legitimate in such cases that its clothing is not pretentious, too formal, expensive and gaudy. But overall the audience has certain expectations for politicians` dressing up. Good style as a rule also shows a responsible attitude to the social role and social engagement of the public person.
 
2. Realism and authenticity
The mass audience has the right to demand and expects the political stars to be "without mask and without makeup" in their public appearances. She has long ago developed a kind of anti-reflex to the standard, learned behavior of the publicly involved people and often punishes him either with low ratings, either with a negative vote or just with indifference, which is no less bad. Politicians can enhance their popularity not only by constructing myths for themselves (this is another big topic), but also through natural, adequate and authentic behavior in society. What is the most common behavior? What are the keys to successful communication? Here are some of them:
- Reliable awareness. The real view of politics towards different social, business, cultural and other situations implies both the absorption of a large amount of information about the various sectors of the social and professional spheres, as well as the development of adequate approaches to solving the priority cases. Realism and authenticity is where this information is accessible to the public, it is not kept in the dark, but by providing it in society, transparency and reliability are ensured both for its interpretation, decision-making or taking action. incl. and unpopular.
- Curiosity and concern. Extremely fast and large-scale growing the popularity of those politicians who demonstrate genuine, not hypocritical and prominent curiosity about people`s good, in both good and bad moments. In other words, it is a trivial but true, it is a daily manifestation of humanity, the most normal attention to life and the fate of the so- "Electorate". Prince Charles, for example, is one of those monarchic celebrities who are alive and genuine about the human details - significant or unimportant in their encounters with them. The audience values ​​this because - even subconsciously - he expects reciprocity in his affection and love for the celebrity.
Self-criticism. Realism and authenticity of policy as a motivation for likes from the mass audience are achieved through honesty, self-criticism, and bold recognition of mistakes and shortcomings. Funny and pathetic are the attempts of public figures to always present themselves in perfect, sinless light. This seeming perfectionism in fact raises doubts and repels potential admirers. Conversely, when the politician, in a spirit of realism, shares difficulties and defects in his management, people form a positive attitude and are ready to understand. "He is not inflated, he is like any other person who is not perfect and can also be mistaken" - that is the logical philosophy in their heads.
 
3. Entertainment and Diversity
Reflection of the hedonistic function of the media as well as the explanation of the entertainment parties in the political behavior today is possible through the awareness of the infotainment phenomenon, a term introduced to denote the style of providing serious information in the form of entertainment. Thanks to it, editors and producers manage to sell their news, packed as entertainment programs or containing entertainment elements. Man is a playable and entertaining being, and hence his claims to the hedonistic media functions will grow steadily and put pressure on them. [5]
For a long time, Neil Postman`s phrase "Let`s Have Fun to Death" [6] is went beyond the television sphere and spread over the public behavior of politicians. The phenomenon of "infotainment" has not been seen since yesterday as a media genre through which the entertainment and show mechanisms predominate in spreading serious facts and data. TV appearances are increasingly seen on the part of public figures engaged in politics who participate in one or other reality show such as "Get Rich", for example. In most cases, it is a charity game to raise funds for social and human causes. The interest of producers and politicians is mutual: on the one hand, the show gets "weight" when it includes party leaders, MPs, ministers and other political leaders. On the other hand, the politicians themselves are further mediated - in a way quite different from their usual activities. The audience gets the impressions from them in a more informal way, entertaining and - quite naturally - politely sympathizes with the political celebrity (if it deserves, of course).
            Entertainment and diversity in politicians` public appearances is an additional magnet for the perception and attitudes of the audience. There are all possible ways of achieving this goal. We are witnesses not only of political presence and participation in various reality formats, but also in charity football matches, chess games, concert appearances and many others. What is the benefit to the public political image of applying these techniques? Essentially, people learn new facts that are indirectly related to the personality of politics and speak a lot about his personality. This creates a much fuller image of it, intelligently and efficiently building on the trivial impression of formal public appearances - participation in rallies, meetings, press conferences, political broadcasts, interviews devoted to serious social and political issues, etc.
            Interpreting policy functions such as celebrity and star shows the need for interdisciplinary analysis - political and cultural - to understand this phenomenon, which has been particularly noticeable in recent decades. The "stellar" manifestation of the modern politician is inevitably associated with the underlining or blurring of the border between public and private, in which case the discourse of individuality is decisive. This, in turn, means that the more countries (given the basic positive qualities) of the individual nature of politics become public, the more chance there is the chance of receiving the desired reactions - liking, approval and admiration.
            An important role for the adequate adoption of politics in the public space has its charisma, which for the different leaders is different and subject to clear typology. Political charisma is an important tool for gaining popularity but is not a sufficient guarantee for the effectiveness of political behavior. Among the main motives of the audience for the liking and approval of the political subject are the motives that follow the need of the same audience of accessibility and trust, realism and authenticity, entertainment and diversity.
            It has become clear that in order to be able to construct, impose and develop its public image, the politician has to be acquainted with and perceived by the audience in his human and informal beauties. Popular culture, lifestyle and all kinds of entertainment mechanisms predetermine the communicative perspectives of the modern politician. His transformation into a star, combined with his political competence and his rational and pragmatic actions, is an absolute prerequisite for his qualitative performance and the fulfillment of his main mission - to be a full-fledged governor, to serve the people`s and the state`s interests.
 
Notes:
* The text is based on the report presented by Prof. Lubomir Stoykov, Ph.D. during the Academic Panel on "Communication in Political Campaigns" within the seventh PR Festival - Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication / Sofia University `St. Kliment Ohridski`, May 28, 2013.
 
[1] Street, John. Celebrity Policians: Popular Culture and Political Representation. In: The British Journal of Politics & International Relations: 2004 VOL 6, р. 449.
[2] Turner, Graeme. Understanding celebrity. Sage Publications Ltd. London, 2004, р. 134.
[3] Marshall, P. David. Celebrity and Power: Fame and Contemporary Culture [Власт и известност. Звездите в съвременната култура]. IK "LIK". Sofia, 2003, p. 307. [in Bulgarian]
[4] Tempest, Richard. The political body: Putin, Borisov, Obama and others [Политическото тяло: Путин, Борисов, Обама и другите]. In: newspaper “Presa”, May 14, 2012. [in Bulgarian]
[5] Stoykov, Lubomir. Culture and media [Култура и медии]. SU “St. Kliment Ohridski”. Sofia, 2010, p. 301. [in Bulgarian]
[6] Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. "Penguin". New York, 1985.
 
 
Suggested Bibliographic Citation:
 
Stoykov, Lubomir. Politics and pop culture. Celebrity and communicative perspectives of the modern politician. // Media and social communications. University of National and World Economy / Alma communication, №19, January 2014. Available from: [www.media-journal.info]
 
 
 
дата на публикуване: 31.01.2014, Петък, 08:43
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