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. Here a celebrity was defined as 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. Celebrity score distribution (scores calculated by number of covers a person appears on) is highly uneven. The celebrity population is described in terms of scores, area of specialization, age, sex and nationality. The article then explores the world of values or value conflicts incarnated by these celebrities, offering a new way of viewing the social changes that occurred over the half-century observed. In the 1950s and 60s, the as yet vivid memory of the two world wars, France’s involvement in the wars in Indochina and Algeria, and the ongoing space race kept the public stirring to the beat 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 more intense quest for what is first and foremost private well-being, as attested by increased interest in the love lives and family life of princesses and actors.