The age of celebrity has never been brighter, louder or more in your face. We’re in an era where the president of the US is a reality TV star and the world is on the brink of nuclear war with a cartoon character brought to life.
It’s not surprising then that universities are reacting. The University of Copenhagen—home to Copenhagen Business School—recently gained headlines by offering a new course titled Beyoncé, Gender and Race.
Historically, human beings have always had an interest in celebrity. The names of kings, queens, tyrants and heroes stand the test of time and in more recent decades we’ve elevated musicians, movie stars and sports personalities to cult-like status.
With the advent of social media stars on YouTube and Instagram, not to mention the impact of Twitter and Facebook, there are more platforms than ever to be exploited. Brand messages can be spread through a viral five minutes of fame, or to millions of viewers daily.
The examination of our fascination with celebrity and an understanding of the drivers behind it seems valuable for those in marketing and media, but many have ridiculed such degrees. They’re labelled ‘Mickey Mouse degrees’ despite being offered by reputable institutions.
While b-schools are yet to offer MBAs on specific individuals, American schools such as NYU Stern, Chicago Booth, UCLA Anderson and Columbia do offer specializations in media and entertainment, which include learning about the craft and not just the business side of the industry. Could the next step be an MBA specialization in celebrity management?
Whether there’s any value to studying the phenomenon of celebrity is open to debate, but there’s one man who’s demonstrating its power. Donald Trump has found his power of celebrity allows him to transcended the traditional rules of politics and he’s taken his name away from the Mickey Mouse degree area and sealed it firmly into a more globally recognized field; History.
The influence of celebrity continues to grow and impact our lives in ever more meaningful ways. Here’s five university courses on celebrity and popular culture:
1. University of Copenhagen: Beyoncé, Gender and Race
This isn’t the first degree available on the singer, but it is the most recent and examines her work, social impact and philosophy.
2. Durham University: Harry Potter and The Age of Illusion
This module, currently offered by Durham’s Education department, studies the relevance of Harry Potter to the twenty-first century education system.
3. Staffordshire University: David Beckham studies
At his height of fame, David Beckham was the most famous soccer-player in the world and Staffordshire University felt it important to study him as part of global football culture.
4. University of Virginia: Gaga for Gaga: Sex, Gender and Identity
This degree focused on Lady Gaga’s music and videos, and how she influences the expression of gender in popular culture.
5. University of Virginia: Game of Thrones
The University of Virginia features again with an examination of Game of Thrones from its English department.