From paths of glory to celebrity boulevards : Sociology of Paris Match covers, 1949-2005
The social construction of celebrity involves a triangular relationship between personalities, audiences and the media. That relationship is studied here by considering a celebrity any person identified by name and appearing at least once on the cover of the French weekly general news magazine, Paris Match between 1949 and 2005. 85 % of the topics handled by the magazine concern celebrities. The distribution of celebrity scores (measured by number of covers a person appears on) is highly uneven. The celebrity population is described in terms of scores, specialization area, age, sex and nationality. The article then explores the world of values or value conflicts incarnated by these celebrities. It offers a new way of viewing the social changes that occurred over the half-century observed. In the 1950s and 1960s, the as-yet vivid memory in France of the two world wars, France’s direct involvement in the wars in Indochina and Algeria, the ongoing feat of conquering space kept the public stirring to the rhythm of la grande histoire, history made of power conflicts and scientific or technological advances. Later, the proportionally stronger presence of aristocrats and show business professionals went along with a strengthened quest for what is first and foremost private well-being, as attested to by increasing interest in the love lives and family life of princesses and actors.