Punishment & Society

http://pun.sagepub.com The Star’s Image, Victimization and Celebrity Culture
Ruth Penfold Punishment Society 2004; 6; 289 DOI: 10.1177/1462474504043633 The online version of this article can be found at: http://pun.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/6/3/289

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com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. in which images of stars.sagepub. Vol 6(3): 289–302 DOI: 10. Mediated visibility launched him into unprecedented acclaim. are circulated and consumed as a daily practice by people across the world. With the killing of his son. images of stars.com 1462-4745. This article explores the cultural reception of celebrity victimization. as a kind of victimization. are circulated and consumed daily across the world. UK Abstract Today we live in a celebrity culture. relating the performative construction of both the celebrity (the individual person) and celebriety (the phenomenon of stardom). The arguments made are illustrated through an analysis of the case of Charles Lindbergh. Analysis of this case permits a study of the relationships between images. relating this to the twinned processes of globalization and commodification. 2008 . this inherent aspect of stardom was supplemented by further victimization. yet his fame unfolded in part as a negative status. Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight of 1927 was a global mediaevent in which the new mobilities of persons and images were highly condensed. the American hero-aviator whose infant son was kidnapped and murdered during the inter-war years. as a kind of victimization. celebrity and victimization. people who are famous for being famous. Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight of 1927 was a global media-event in which the new mobilities of persons and images were highly condensed. Mediated visibility launched the ‘Lone Eagle’ into unprecedented acclaim. CA and New Delhi. whose infant son was murdered during the inter-war years. Thousand Oaks. The 289 Downloaded from http://pun. but ultimately not comprehended within. In this cult of celebrity. This article explores the cultural reception of celebrity victimization. www. victimization and celebrity culture RUTH PENFOLD University of Leeds.Copyright © SAGE Publications London. the American criminal justice system.sagepublications. Key Words celebrity • images • media • synopticon • victimization Today we live in a celebrity culture. engaged by. people ‘famous for being famous’. yet his fame unfolded in part as a negative status. The argument that is made proceeds through an analysis of the case of Charles Lindbergh. to the twinned processes of globalization and commodification.1177/1462474504043633 PUNISHMENT & SOCIETY The star’s image.

In general this is a question of people who are seen to be ‘in power’. and the remembrance of the case in both legal changes and popular cultural forms. in which celebrity victimization is writ large. 1997). celebrity and victimization. in politics. as McLuhan and Fiore (1967). As an icon. for. yet individuated enough to be unique and interesting (Reeves. Stars compensate for this inaccessible result of social labour by acting out various styles of living and viewing society. 1958: 5). given the extensive media activity surrounding recent cases of celebrity victimization. Furthermore. A more accurate assertion might be that celebrities are actually a publicized version of what we would like to be. but when they dominate our encounter or experience of them to the extent that one almost forgets the actual reality of the person (Shapiro. As such Lindbergh became an icon. Global consumer culture continues to create a complex cultural politics. relatively unfettered and free to express themselves globally. CELEBRITY AND CELEBRIETY Although Lindbergh’s fame began with his widely reported flight. but this is not entirely correct. It seems that Lindbergh’s celebrity status influenced the dynamics of criminal investigation and trial. Or. whose decisions appear to exercise substantial influence within their society. economics or religion. with the rise of electronic media. but whose 290 Downloaded from http://pun. Analysis of this case permits a study of the fascinating relationships between images. a role model. teasing out the significance of some of the effects of the modern ‘synopticon’ in which the many watch the few (Mathiesen. Baudrillard (1981) and Debord (1983) argue. the celebrity becomes a representation of a living being. 2008 . recognizable images form the basis of a person’s recognition. as Debord (1983: 60) argues. 1972: 240). Lindbergh also gained the four responses necessary to gain the label of ‘star’ or celebrity. like all celebrity figures he became primarily known for his well-knownness through his image (Boorstin. an inspiration and an escape from reality (Giles.PUNISHMENT AND SOCIETY 6(3) crime itself was widely thought to have occurred as a direct result of Lindbergh’s celebrity. However. there are also those whose institutional power is extremely limited or non-existent. his celebriety became so distinct from that event that some commentators remarked that it was as though he had never flown at all (Ward. society has become increasingly established as a society of spectacle. the average working lifestyle) actually lived. 1988: 150). A person is iconic not only when they stimulate our recognition of them. In iconicity. Studying the Lindbergh case also contributes to the reassessment of modern penality. They are both ordinary and extraordinary. commodity signs and representations. including the murders of Jill Dando and Gianni Versace. In every society there are those who.sagepub. are especially remarkable or who attract universal attention. 2000: 61). This is not only a neglected area in the study of modern penality. FAME.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. as another big story that brought about one of the ‘trials of the century’. an embodiment of a possible role that compensates for the fragmented productive specializations (namely. Boorstin writes that celebrities are ‘usually nothing greater than a publicized version of us’ (1972: 83). typical enough to be accessible and recognizable. 1999: 1–2). in the estimation of the collectivity. but also a matter of contemporary interest. as he became an ideal. Lindbergh’s hero-status was engulfed by his celebriety. the relations between celebrity and victimization were further complicated by the commodification of the case and images of its protagonists.

Without achieving power he possessed a charisma that stretched across societies. In contemporary society these ‘celebrities’ or ‘stars’ can attract an unconditional admiration and interest. Not only was this man an astounding aviator but he went on to write books. it is unsurprising that the eventual finding of the Lindbergh baby’s body was hailed as. which in this context carries the sense of both visual pictures/representations and reputational status. or at least exceptional even where accessible to others’ (1968: 241). This aspect of celebriety can be connected to what Weber referred to as ‘charisma’. meaning. 2008 . 291 Downloaded from http://pun. It is judged by how much the audience is taken in by the performance (Kuhn. We should also remember Barthes’ (1964/1977) assertion that images are polysemic. Rather. As such Lindbergh became an unwilling performer of a constructed celebrity image that was not a true reflection of his identity and sense of self. Heavily interconnected with celebriety is the notion of ‘image’. where one is literally lost in the human image. ‘a quality regarded as extraordinary and attributed to a person . as pictorial mass media developed into the focal point of news stories in order to secure the attention of audiences in a hotly competitive market. This charisma is. ‘the biggest story since the Armistice and in some cases. his celebriety was performatively constructed within a globalizing culture. Performativity is allied with acting. The latter is believed to be endowed with power and properties which are supernatural and superhuman. which causes them to be seen with an amount of awe. As Ramonet argues. 2000: 180). . Media images provide stable forms of meaning and interpretation in a culture where ‘seeing is believing’. the ‘hero aviator’ with eyes raised up to the skies that he alone has conquered. especially when the image is constantly repeated (Urry. and became an ambassador figure. Butler (1990) and Bell (1999) analysing cross-dressing and how gender. In this image a single moment is captured and conveyed as significant. . which cannot be reached or renounced. 1995: 195). open to a range of meanings and resonances with different viewers. the words became parasitical upon his image (Barthes. but to make us take part in an event’ (quoted in Morley and Robins. highly specific.sagepub. March 1932). he is made into an event. thus the most well-known populist image shows him as the ‘Lone Eagle’. the biggest story of all time’ (Editor and Publisher. and has been explored by scholars such as Kuhn (1985). driven by technological development and widening franchise of media forms (Bruce. which crucially defines us. victimization and culture actions and manner of living arouse great interest.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. images are important. of course. Lindbergh was one of the first to endure a world-scale society’s adoration. as the symbolic embodiment of the belief in perfection and beauty (Barthes. Lindbergh’s stardom did not simply arise from his personal qualities. 1992: 11). The face itself comes to represent an absolute state of flesh. Lindbergh’s star-image did not arise from pictures that simply illustrated the text written about him. However. for ‘the objective is not to make us understand a situation. can be undercut. 1985: 52). The use of the ‘close-up’ in film and photography is intended to plunge the audience into the deepest ecstasy. but rather what the public wished him to be in the light of his transatlantic flight. With the new mass media stimulating an increasing demand for information about this ‘star’. 1972: 56). and through using monochrome film he is given an appearance of timelessness. 1991: 14).PENFOLD The star’s image. This notion poses the possibility of a mutable self. rather. Classic iconic images of Lindbergh are inclusive of audiences by pandering to their desire to see a heroic figure. dissimulation and an intent to be seen as someone/thing else. which as an activity involves pretence.

with the popularity of films like ‘Snatch’ and ‘Lock. style and sensation removed from earlier notions of taste. bloody violence and illegal activity became portrayed as fascinating and thrilling. The glamourized portrayal of organized crime in the cinema has also recently been the subject of criticism. Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. argues that communication is the organizing principle in contemporary societies. as criminals. The study of performativity allows a powerful appreciation of the ways that identities are constructed through complex citational processes.PUNISHMENT AND SOCIETY 6(3) the notion of performativity should not be limited to gender. society who exploit local communities for their own selfish ends’. . but also cultures of cosmopolitanism and global responsibility. providing a cultural profile into which celebrity victimization fits with ease. and for diverse reasons. but elected (although often only partially) and seized upon.1 There have been repeated attempts by governments to deglamourize criminals and promote their own law enforcement agencies in their place. and especially to the American people who anointed him their hero. aptly for my analysis. Lindbergh’s flight took place during what Robertson. violent individuals who are ‘leeches on . as a result of the mass media the glamourization of crime is being absorbed into an increasingly global industry of consumption. The embracement of Lindbergh by such a variety of people. allowing for both agency and processes of subjection. Early 20th-century celebriety attracted both official and popular concern. This glamourizing of the banal and the ugly is a modern aesthetic of fashion. Identity is not something that is passively shaped. Lash (2002). The role of image is inextricably bound to the development of the modern mass media. Both films depict organized crime as an entertaining and humorous pursuit carried out by colourful personalities and loveable rogues. narratives and rituals from which a sense of common destiny can be woven. can be explained through Robertson’s (1992) identification of several successive phases of the process of globalization. Thus identity becomes the effect of performance. symbols. 1958: 3). ‘fuselage fabric badly torn by souvenir hunters’ (Ward. . Lindbergh’s flight became a metaphor for the world. a phase that began in the 1870s. the success of an industrial organized society (Ward. Lindbergh’s flight was depicted as the achievement of a heroic. This achievement was consolidated by the media’s expansion in variety and reach through technology. class and gender. According to Robertson in the ‘take-off phase’. solitary. and provided evidence to the world that machinery (in the sense of mechanized transportation) was ‘the future’. he had no idea what he had done although his log entrance reveals the answer. 2008 . However. Urry (2000) writes that it is not only national cultures that need cultural resources. 292 Downloaded from http://pun. instead of ruthless.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. LINDBERGH’S FLIGHT AND AMERICAN CONSUMERIST MODERNITY When in 1927 Lindbergh flew from the USA to France in 33 hours and 30 minutes. in Critique of information. as it can also be applied to the creation of a celebrity figure. which had been tied to established categories of race. unaided individual as well as the triumph of machine. 1958: 3).sagepub. which creates and promotes a diversity of celebrities by depicting the individual through conventions of glamour. termed the ‘take-off phase’. Even brief and superficial images that are rapidly transmitted can be highly emotive.

a single ‘international society’ and an increasingly singular. and the advent of the Nazi regime. while hundreds of poems were submitted to newspapers and songs were recorded about the aviator. 1958: 6). which were consequentially being redefined and reinforced. . who argues that the complex interrelated ethnoscapes and mediascapes of modernity. Generic individuals emerged as living symbols in whom the new kinds of nationhood were invested. of national societies. attitudes and emotions were engaged. 3 January 1935) and that ‘no American could have killed that child’. feelings. the ‘achievement’ of his flight making him into a symbol of ‘America’. for the USA of the 1920s was seeing the climax of this period. 2001: 73–6). As a consequence. This state of flux and change also impacted upon national differences and territorial boundaries. but no unified conception of humankind. through massive public parades in front of millions with Lindbergh as the centrepiece. German immigrants had been subject to exclusion and discrimination due to their unwillingness or poor ability to accord with the practice of assimilation to the American way of life. 1958: 6–7). bringing previously isolated nations into a closer relationship and allowing people and places once remote and legendary to become familiar to every reader of the daily press (Park. 1992: 59) Not only did Lindbergh’s flight occur during this ‘take-off phase’. the common man who struggles and overcomes. Lindbergh became such a generic figure who lived out a national identity. Combined with the First World War perception of Germans as a menace. 1985: 12). 1955: 87). victimization and culture increasingly manifest globalizing tendencies of previous periods and places gave way to a single. (Robertson. An international society was being formed at this time. . divergent from the republican forms of a century earlier. and increasing flows of images combined with the deterritorialized flows of people. The wild acclaim in response to the man who crossed the Atlantic alone was a mass public ritual of regeneration. emblematizing the American Dream of which Capone was the dark shadow or the emblematic anti-hero of this period (Valier. generic individuals (but with a masculine bias). a reassertion of national identities came about. they inspired the most xenophobia and general dislike of any immigrant group (Doerries. creates a new order of instability in the formation of identities. Lindbergh was commonly depicted as the generic individual par excellence. but the cultural reception of his flight seems to exemplify its typical features.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. Hauptmann’s ‘alien’ status whipped up damming references of him ‘not possessing in his make-up any of the yeast that is America’ (New York Times. As Ambassador Herrick declared. This need to re-establish a sense of identity is reflected upon by Appadurai (1996). ‘had we searched all America we could not have found a better type than young Lindbergh to represent the spirit and high purpose of our people’ (Ward. He was also portrayed as a new kind of ‘hero’. Zygmunt Bauman (2000) refers to this instability as ‘liquefaction’ or ‘liquidity’. 2008 . causing a variety of problems particularly regarding widespread tension around Germans. as transport and communication barriers were being overcome. who was accused of kidnapping and murdering the Lindbergh baby.PENFOLD The star’s image. New forms of nationality were emerging. combined with mobilizing the fear and anxieties of the ‘true 293 Downloaded from http://pun.2 By defining Hauptmann as ‘other’. inexorable form centered upon the four reference points . The label of outsider had a highly detrimental effect upon the illegal German immigrant Richard Hauptmann. Thus the USA came to celebrate itself more than the individual (Ward.sagepub. Large-scale immigration to the USA had been taking place for decades.

1993: 154) there was no limit to what. THE MASS MEDIA AND MOBILITY The ‘take-off ’ period of globalization saw the transformation of established mass media forms. As Taylor (1999) points out. Consumption thus became a method of constructing an intelligible universe where social relationships were made and maintained (Douglas and Isherwood. producing new ways of conceiving the self and identity as well as generating new perfomativities. particularly of the newspaper. 51). 2008 . and making it the ‘talking point’ of the whole nation. Before the influx of broadcasting. through which the public were driven to consume for satisfaction (Cross. public life was a stage upon which he was forced to perform (Urry. 1997: 1. leading to the need for personalities to be introduced to the public.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17.sagepub. 1979: 59). Originally journalism was focused on the reporting of government affairs. the rest of his life became a news story of which the ultimate feature was the kidnapping and murder of his son. It seems then that this generic figure was produced on the basis of a set of exclusions definitive of American nationhood. revealed the essential function of consumption to be not an instrumental one but rather the capacity to make sense. 1994: 51). The Lindbergh phenomenon was emblematic of this change. This tense domestic atmosphere was worsened by the economic upheaval of the Wall Street Crash in 1929. re-making the public sphere through forms of quasi-interaction. The mass media opened up new possibilities of interaction and dialogue. Combined with the rapidly growing consumer culture. which produced a blurring between public and private. and Lindbergh was indeed a sign for the American people. These shifts however demanded a reassessment of the world as it both expanded and shrank at the same time. it was beyond reach. but by the time of Lindbergh. 1997: 226). GLOBALIZATION. Jameson writes that ‘no society has ever been saturated with signs and images like this one’ (1991: 131). Consuming Lindbergh. claiming to make public business truly public by assuming the role of ‘defender of popular liberties’. Physical objects were consumed alongside images and signs that enabled people to relate to each other socially (Lury. something was to be consumed. where news developed a popular literature style focusing on tales about a private person’s luck or misfortune. Urry (2000) describes an intimate public sphere which has resulted from the transformation of a rational (though exclusionary) public sphere of debate into an affective public stage on which intimate details of private lives are displayed and performed. signalling the arrival of the ‘Great Depression’ in the USA. The tremendous embrace of the generic figure embodied by Lindbergh highlights the significance of American consumerist culture. instead of simply goods. for having captivated the public by his transatlantic flight. spectacles and personal performances. This new intimate public stage involves images of events. consumed particularly in relation to aiding the creation of a social identity that could be sold and consumed to replace the one that had been shaken (Abercrombie. 2000: 180). where or how. He was a key instance of ‘longing’. ‘public life was not “for me” ’. Through consuming celebrities such as Lindbergh people from diverse backgrounds and a variety of ages could connect over something familiar. 294 Downloaded from http://pun. American consumerist modernity was a form of modernity that was globally circulated.PUNISHMENT AND SOCIETY 6(3) American public’ (Hall. This position shifted by the 1920s to the production of a saleable commodity. consumed and reinvented.

with the increasing use of photographs among word-based press. and psychical connection in spite of physical separation (Sconce. firmly established radio as the ‘most pulse-raising of the media’ bringing the admission that ‘the disembodied voice has a far greater force than the printed word’ (The Nation. New media types also played a vital role in the formulation of a celebrity culture.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. setting a style of narrative telling that requires a person or family to endure a tragedy with bravery. particularly in a mediated world. Where messages were previously grounded in the immediate space and time of those communicating. Lindbergh proved so popular that photographs alone could not meet the demand. for that which was not yet routine stimulated excitement and interest. 1995: 1). This ‘global order’ was perhaps best encapsulated by the radio. Lindbergh’s celebriety was greatly aided by the release of the first ‘talkie’ film. and the Lindbergh flight the following year. The growth of pictorial media was important in creating the Lindbergh phenomenon. made it a personal and intimate mass media form (Hendy. with few people having seen an aircraft close up. This was a key component in formulating the Lindbergh phenomenon. a legendary status rarely found outside of fiction. intertwined with new spaces of community emerging via increasingly international networks (Morley and Robins. which was also banalizing. enabling him to address his admirers. were sold popularly. new mass media options. landing in France and triumphant return from his transatlantic flight were filmed with sound.sagepub. 1995: 37). This was primarily due to the restructuring of information and image.PENFOLD The star’s image. The response was dramatic. Lindbergh’s celebriety was not merely a celebration of an individual’s achievement. 2008 . for the capacity for ‘simultaneity’ helped produce a new way of conceptualizing community and consciousness. to become a global order’ (Du Gay. 1949: 441–2). which became the first media industry to serve a truly global market (Herman and McChesney. and fewer still having flown in one. which was quickly made available for entertainment in people’s homes. . These cultural products placed Lindbergh within the realm of cartoon superheroes. becoming the ‘new craze’ (Morris. 1997: 13). This development meant that his take-off from New York. while also providing an individual experience by painting pictures in the mind’s eye. as quickly as it was released it became old and something else was needed to replace it. 12 November 1938: 498). blurring the factual and the fictional. victimization and culture This ‘feature’ became known as ‘the greatest human interest story of the decade’ (MacGill Hughes. As a consequence of this possibility of rapid. were developed allowing for temporal immediacy amid spatial isolation. Aviation was still in its infancy when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. 1936: 32–4). The ability to deal with a mass of people. the scene was set to form a ‘new media order . but was also seen as the triumph of technological transportation. 1995: 117). ‘The Jazz Singer’ only a month before his flight (Ellis. as demonstrated in New York where the audience stood and cheered the Lindbergh report for over 10 minutes (Paris. The use of ‘still’ images within the printed media coincided with advances being made in the world of motion pictures. accurate and thoroughgoing interpretation of events as they occurred. The rapid turnover of ‘new’ news meant it was both short-lived and throwaway. . The 295 Downloaded from http://pun. such as the telegraph. Comic strips about the Lindbergh kidnapping and trial that addressed the latest events. The importance of news grew consistently with the expansion of mass media communication. The coverage of the Dempsey–Tunney flight in 1926. 1997: 34). 2000: 7). so flight was regarded with awe. 2000: 115).

He was wholly unprepared for the frenzied 296 Downloaded from http://pun. The persistent separation of sexual spheres in the structuring of social order. This conveniently solved the problem of news being ‘a very perishable commodity’ (Park. independent woman were on display. As a rule the generic individual was.3 The Lindbergh craze was in part a fascination with a celebrity relationship. 2008 . As a consequence. in the 1930s. Thus Lindbergh became a victim of his own success. CELEBRITY AND VISIBILITY Celebrities are a set of ideas and representations in which people collectively make sense of the world and the society in which they live through the media texts that create ‘stars’ (Dyer. breaking down conventions. 1955: 78). 1998: 2). For this she was awarded medals by the National Geographic Society. gendered male. [which has] destroyed or crippled almost everyone caught up in it’ (Dyer. and symbolized the crossing of the final frontier perceived by Americans as their ‘manifest destiny’ (Paris. with women in the privacy of the home and men in public. the final American hero.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. as Robertson (1992) points out. Katherine Stimson. Connecting technology with freedom led to the emergence of the cult of heroines of the air. this . good looking couple and presuming a happy ending. Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart. which linked the liberation of woman to technology. and by the US Flag Association. but also the freedom that most women lacked. 1987: 5). for instance through Tamara de Lempicka’s autoportrait of ‘Tamara in the Green Bugatti’. the 1920s saw the airman become a generic individual. For admiring commentators. During the inter-war years a number of women pilots became international figures such as Ruth Law. in recognition of achieving surveys for transatlantic air routes. Anne Morrow Lindbergh became one of these aviator symbols of the independent woman.4 LINDBERGH. Nevertheless this was to an extent a contested and complex process of gendering. Florence Barnes. . They came to be seen as pioneers. Lindbergh was caught up in ‘this phenomenon. no one is more alone than a pilot a mile above the earth. or ‘aviatrix’. disqualifying them from competing on equal terms with men (Paris. by co-piloting Lindbergh in 40. possessing an air of mystery and heroism combined with a hint of the exotic.sagepub. By 1925 images of the modern. was threatened by the spectacle of the female aviator. while his marriage to Anne Morrow became a fairytale romance complete with a perfect. he was real but appeared to be living out a movie script scene by scene. He combined the spectacular with the everyday. all of whom achieved record-breaking flights. providing an inexhaustible source of speculation and often fictional stories.000 miles of exploratory flying over five continents. which were seized by the media and fed to the public leaving Lindbergh feeling victimized. The result of this was that aviation came to symbolize not only the final frontier for mankind.PUNISHMENT AND SOCIETY 6(3) ‘conquest of the air’ embodied the fascination with the USA’s technological progress. 1995: 6). the special with the ordinary. However aeronautics was associated with sexual equality as early as 1911 by American actress Harriet Quimby who asserted that there could be no discrimination in the air. Lindbergh was transformed into an Arabian Nights type of character. because he consistently provided new aspects and angles of his life. celebrity system. This particular star image achieved worldwide recognition through Lindbergh’s flight. coupled with the tradition of rugged individualism. 1995: 114). .

Key characters involved in the case such as Schwarzkopf. As one of the first to experience visibility on an international. in a popularity bid. . leaving him vulnerable (Bird. 1958: 5–6). . victimization and culture media and public interest following his transatlantic flight. 2000: 41. which when combined with all the key ‘good story’ components of a much-loved celebrity became known as ‘the greatest story since the Resurrection’. This declaration entailed a recognition of Lindbergh’s generic and iconic status. The drama was no longer his. found himself overruled by Lindbergh while John Condon or ‘Jafsie’. described by Thompson as the ‘froth of social . mass media scale Lindbergh revealed the devastation caused by the inability to keep separate a public persona and private life. for ‘at no time in the history of the world has a crime [so] shocked mankind .com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. The media sought to use Lindbergh in bridging the transient and ephemeral quality of the essence of news. For the celebriety of Lindbergh and his son’s kidnap and murder stimulated ‘gossip’. The mass media allowed whole arenas of action previously hidden from view to be made visible. . the visibility provided by the media becomes a snare for anyone they chose to focus upon. giving the media power to create a complex field of images and information flows over which only they had control. . offered all necessary resources to 297 Downloaded from http://pun. The terrible loss inflicted upon the nation’s hero was packaged as a national tragedy or trauma. 2 March 1932).sagepub. Lindbergh discovered to his personal detriment that his ‘private life ended with his flight to Paris. This visibility and media attention makes it understandable that Lindbergh came to believe that it was his celebrity status that brought about the kidnap and murder of his son. this was the ‘the birth of the son of the most famous young man in modern history’ (New York Times. An ambiguous and highly revealing statement released by the New York Times claimed that the Lindbergh Jr kidnapping was ‘no more important . find it to be (Thompson. The President. . 2000: 260–1). and later on of the trial itself. Consequently. than if the humblest child from the humblest home in America had been taken’ (2 March 1932). it was the public’s’ (Ward.PENFOLD The star’s image. . 2008 . for instance with the birth of his first child ‘word went flashing round the world by telegraph. life’ (2000: 5). 2 March 1932). who are adept at using the media to fashion their image or further their ends. 1997: 100). and harder to predict the consequences of unintended and unwanted disclosures. suffered from extreme hero worship. cable and wireless’ (New York Times. Consequently Lindbergh led the way for public figures and celebrities who have followed in his footsteps. revealing that greater visibility leads to closer scrutinization and exposure to the risk of public invasion into the private (Thompson. 260). A riveted public listened to radio services held for Lindbergh Jr. for visibility gave him nowhere to hide. It is perhaps unsurprising that visibility through the media was not to be the gift that some individuals. writing that never had a child been the object of such wide public interest. who was head of the investigation. The proliferation of mediated communication forms made it difficult to erect a veil of secrecy around activities. Every aspect and angle of Lindbergh’s life was on show. The media engaged in the hyperbolic trend of journalism. 2 March 1932). and which forms prime mass media material. swiftly becoming uncooperative and reclusive. Every family feels as though its own child has been suddenly snatched away’ (New York Times. which only increased scrutiny for the public were intrigued by the mysterious and shy hero-aviator. The status of Lindbergh vastly affected the visibility of the investigation of the crime. sent letters and telegrams and made phone calls to the aviator.

Meanwhile Flemington locals also cashed in on the celebriety of Lindbergh with one restaurant serving a ‘Special Trial Menu’ including Lamb Chops Jafsie. The obsession with Lindbergh extended to street vendors. . 3 March 1932). The President also made immediate moves to amend kidnapping legislation. 1998: 339). pictures of Lindbergh with forged autographs and even locks of hair allegedly from ‘Baby Lindy’ (Kennedy. it separates you from people’ (8 May 1981). As a result police systems in four states were mobilized. Therefore. Despite these tactics and attempts to heroize the FBI agents through adopting the gangster name for them. During the appeal process. Following the verdict of the trial. the ultimate embodiment of spectacle. The spectacle that the kidnapping became confirmed Lindbergh’s wariness of both the mass media and the international populace. delayed at Lindbergh’s request as he feared for the safety of his child. hate mail and letters threatening their second child were received. while airliners bound for Washington would bank steeply over the estate so passengers could see the house (New York Times. 2008 . all sense of proportion and much of the sense of decency was lost’. He sought to improve public relations and highlight the message that the Bureau was working for the American people. 1985: 259). guards were posted at ferry terminals and on various New York bridges and tunnels and orders were issued to every law-enforcement agency of the federal government to help solve the crime.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. J. 1985: 259). ‘G-men’ (government men). It was not until the impression was conveyed that the Lindbergh baby kidnapping was solved by the FBI that it became recognized as the nation’s premier law enforcement agency. wrote Norman Levy in American Mercury Magazine. television documentaries to 298 Downloaded from http://pun.6 The cost of being a celebrity was passed from father to children. the trial town. and pictorial images such as cartoons like Dick Tracey. 1998). displaying in a very physical sense the notion of ‘consuming’ celebrities. from movies to plays. There were also frightening attempts of the 1930’s paparazzi to photograph their son (Berg. Sightseers trampled over the grounds of the Lindbergh property in Hopewell only hours after the announcement of the kidnapping. the entire Lindbergh family paid a price.sagepub. . .5 Lindbergh’s celebriety brought about the unprecedented consequence that locations associated with the kidnapping. [while] . Gangsterdom and public disregard for Prohibition had become so extreme during the years between 1921–33 that they became referred to as the ‘lawless years’. . The FBI had seen limited success in investigating crimes during this era. Edgar Hoover also used the Lindbergh Jr kidnapping and murder to help in the establishment of the FBI.PUNISHMENT AND SOCIETY 6(3) aid in the safe recovery of the child. whose freedom was restricted due to concern about media attention. the Lindbergh family went into self-imposed ‘exile’ in England. and was unable to improve the situation without public support. This new form of ‘tourism’ was particularly virulent in Flemington. Lindbergh’s immortality is confirmed through every form of medium. for as the New York Times wrote ‘fame is a kind of death. where ‘for two months the world went mad and the centre of the universe shifted to the sleepy town . Hoover’s declaration of a ‘war on crime’ successfully stimulated media interest as part of his publicity and populism campaign for the FBI. Baked Beans Wilentz and Lindbergh Sundaes (Kennedy. The price of celebriety cost Lindbergh not only his son but arguably his homeland too. the Bureau’s position remained unconsolidated (Bond Potter. who sold small wooden models of the kidnapper’s ladder. murder and subsequent trial became tourist destinations. leaving him scarred by the experience of being ‘adrift in [a] sea of public opinion’.

culture and communication. victimization and culture books. The Lindbergh law also permitted the death penalty for kidnappers who moved their victims from one state to another and failed to return them unharmed. This process of ‘the new individualization’ (Garland. PENALITY. As Valier (2003) has shown. Second. only to be made harsher the following year by making the sending of kidnapping/ransom notes across state lines a federal offence. from postage stamps to tours and trial re-enactments. with the citizens revelling in the thrills. and now in the age of the Internet. The mediated spectacle of celebrity victimization is an integral part of modern penality in a number of ways. This sought to render the intimate details of the lowliest lives a matter of knowledge and public record. The crime against Lindbergh and his child led to the passing of the ‘Lindbergh law’. their lives and sufferings told to all. with the public demanding to ‘see’ individuals who are recognized as successful and embody the dreams of the general populace. reassurance and self-validation of it (Kyle. campaigns for laws that take the name of the victim such as Megan’s law are not unique to late modernity. Foucault writes that biography. web pages devoted to him still discuss the mystery surrounding the kidnapping. 1998: 2). Garland (2001) mused about a further reversal of the axis of individualization in late modernity. which had been a matter of the telling of the lives of the great. MEDIATED SPECTACLE AND CELEBRITY VICTIMIZATION Not since Ancient Rome’s infamous amphitheatres has the notion of ‘viewing a spectacle’ been as celebrated as today. Thomas Mathiesen (1997) advanced a theory of synopticism as a modality of power in which the many watch and admire the few. This desire to know everything about a celebrity questions Michel Foucault’s notion in Discipline and punish (1977) of a reversal of the axis of individuation. because kidnapping at the time was not classified as a federal offence. celebrity and victimization as an integral part of modern penality. and as such was a matter of the few (the authorities) watching the many. As a result of the Little Eaglet case it was written into federal law. 2008 . He agrees that the panoptical principle is in evidence. In his article on the ‘viewer society’. First. Celebrity bodies themselves are rendered a spectacle. became extended to the mass of the population through disciplinary technologies.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17.sagepub. For Romans the spectacle of death was alluring. 2001: 179–80) comes about as crime victims become celebrity figures. making extradition proceedings no longer necessary for the crime of kidnapping. the ways in which celebriety develops through popular fascination meant that celebrity victimization made forms of populism a feature within modern criminal justice. 1998: 35) by a shift from direct to mediated spectacle. Yet it seems that what is missing here is an account of mediated spectacle. by proposing an ‘intensification of spectacle’.PENFOLD The star’s image. but emphasizes important 299 Downloaded from http://pun. spectacle is far from obsolete having transmogrified into a notion of viewing more acceptable to contemporary society. this should lead us to develop a sophisticated account of punishment. Spectacle has developed beyond the limitations of being simply the witnessing of an action or on a scale that is worth being seen and meant to be seen (Kyle. Mathiesen rehearses Foucault’s argument about the shift to a society in which ‘a few could supervise or survey a large number’. Congress approved this legislation in June 1932. Although in modern times the viewing of life-threatening violence has generally become distasteful.

namely practices enabling the many to see and contemplate the few through the mass media. and in doing so has highlighted the power of celebriety to transform an individual into a celebrity predominantly known for their well-knownness. the public consumes celebriety. He writes that synopticism has allowed the formation of ‘a new class in the public sphere’ in the form of VIPs. My contribution in this article has focused upon the performative construction of celebrity victimization. and particularly regarding the generic individual. those in synoptic space are continuously visible and seen as important.co.pbs.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_916000/916477. the processes of globalized mass media and mobility contributed in setting the stage for the phenomenon of celebrity to flourish. the many watch and contemplate the few in a more intense manner than ever before. they produce news and they place and avoid topics on the agenda of society. for they shape and filter information. My research into celebriety indicates that despite Foucault’s assertion of the end of the spectacle of corporeal torture.sagepub. encouragement and helpful comments on this article. Notes 1 Further comments from the Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service can be found at news.com/lindyhoax/verdict.com by Beata Margithazi on October 17. a process tied neatly to Robertson’s ‘take-off ’ phase. the body has not ceased to be an object of public attention.aol. However the visibility necessary to become a celebrity rapidly revealed a price that had to be paid in the form of victimization.bbc. Alongside this generic individual. of whom both a positive and negative form can be seen in Lindbergh and Hauptmann. I have shown how this comes about through the elaboration of a star image.html 300 Downloaded from http://pun. Mathiesen did not connect media personalities to the topic of crime and punishment. According to Mathiesen. 2008 . but does not mention infamous criminals and celebrity victims. The application of performativity theories reinforces the significant contribution of glamour and image to the creation of celebriety by highlighting that a celebrity image is not ‘real’ but rather a performed construction that pleases the public. This article has sought to clarify the notion of ‘celebrity’. CONCLUDING REMARKS The cultural reception of celebrities has developed into a phenomenon beyond anything previously experienced in centuries past. Although this line of argument is interesting. Through mass-mediation. although I have also emphasized the exclusionary aspects of this process. the prosecutor in the Lindbergh trial. members.PUNISHMENT AND SOCIETY 6(3) developments that coincided with panopticism.html 3 www. allowing various forms of victimization of those identified as celebrities or ‘stars’.stm 2 Comment made by David Wilentz. Acknowledgements The author would like to offer special thanks to Claire Valier for her interest. stars and reporters (1997: 218–19). In turn. Celebrities showed themselves to be an important rallying point for society. where the public can be bound together in a sense of community and togetherness similar to that experienced during a national disaster or war.org/wghh/amex/lindbergh/sfeature/anne. They should not be underestimated.

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