Not all celebrity activity takes place in front of the flash of cameras. This fact is difficult to imagine because the staged character of celebrity life is so prevalent, from the high glamour of magazine shoots and red-carpet walks to the public-relations machine that mingles feel-good activism with stopping for a bite to eat after workout. Spectacle seems, practically speaking, to be the necessary condition of celebrity. To put it another way, “the spectacle of celebrity” emphasizes just how much contemporary culture treats the phenomenon in almost solely visual terms. But the phrase could also be taken as an invitation to examine the belief (if not the fact) that someone is doing the looking.

What, then, about those who do the looking, those whose looking fuels the celebrity engine? This emphasis on audience—and the way an audience's gaze turns readily into a metaphor for other behaviors, as well as other...

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