Talent, Skill, and Celebrity

Ethical Perspectives 29 (1):33-63 (2022)
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A commonly raised criticism against celebrity culture is that it celebrates people who become famous without any connection to their skills, talents or achievements. A culture in which people become famous simply for being famous is criticized for being shallow and inauthentic. In this paper we offer a defence of celebrity by arguing against this criticism. We begin by outlining what we call the Talent Argument: celebrity is a negative cultural phenomenon because it creates and sustains fame without any connection to the accomplishments that arise from an expression of talent or skill. By appealing to the metaphysics of talent and skill, we argue against the Talent Argument and propose that being a celebrity requires the skills that are necessary to acquire and maintain one’s status as a celebrity. A celebrity is more likely to be talented and successful in their expression of these skills, and even celebrities who are ‘famous for being famous’ will often display talents and skills that give rise to their fame. This means that those who critique celebrity culture should not do so by appealing to the Talent Argument. We show how our account of celebrity, talent and skill works to reject both the strong version of the Talent Argument, as well as a weaker and more plausible version of the argument we call the Valuable Talents argument. We conclude by noting that our analysis has demonstrated the need to explore more closely the kinds of skills that are necessary to cultivate celebrity status. This allows for a more nuanced understanding of what a celebrity is, and the values that are attached to celebrity culture.

Author Profiles

Catherine Robb
University of Essex
Alfred Archer
Tilburg University


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