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Celebrity and Youth

Mediated Audiences, Fame Aspirations, and Identity Formation

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Edited By Spring-Serenity Duvall

Celebrity and Youth: Mediated Audiences, Fame Aspirations, and Identity Formation makes an examination of contemporary celebrity culture with an emphasis on how young celebrities are manufactured, how fan communities are cultivated, and how young audiences consume and aspire to fame. This book foregrounds considerations of diversity within celebrity and fan cultures, and takes an international perspective on the production of stardom. Chapters include interviews with professional athletes in the United States about their experiences with stardom after coming out as gay, and interviews with young people in Europe about their consumption of celebrity and aspirations of achieving fame via social media. Other chapters include interviews with young Canadian women that illuminate the potential influence of famous feminists on audience political engagement, and critical analysis of media narratives about race, happiness, cultural appropriation, and popular feminisms. The current anthology brings together scholarship from Canada, the United States, Spain, and Portugal to demonstrate the pervasive reach of global celebrity, as well as the commonality of youth experiences with celebrity in diverse cultural settings.

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Chapter 5: Out in Play: Openly Gay Male Athletes Navigate Media, Celebrity, and Fandom (Leigh M. Moscowitz / Andrew C. Billings)

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CHAPTER FIVE

Out in Play

Openly Gay Male Athletes Navigate Media, Celebrity and Fandom

LEIGH M. MOSCOWITZ AND ANDREW C. BILLINGS



Introduction

At the small liberal arts college of Willamette University, located in Salem, Oregon, a young, red-shirted freshman place-kicker risks everything that matters to him to send a simple message: “You are not alone.” With those words, tweeted as part of a lengthy letter to his hometown of Kennewick, Washington, Connor Mertens becomes one of the first college football athlete to come out publicly. A few days prior, Mertens came out to his coaches and teammates both as bisexual and in a relationship with a man. As he thought about what it was like to grow up in his small town, coming of age in what he termed a “hostile” homophobic environment of Southridge High School, he told his Twitter followers that he did not want other LGBT youth to experience what he had felt: “I made the decision that if I could prevent one person from feeling that self-hatred, loneliness, desperation and a thousand other emotions that I felt, I would. I will be damned if I let anyone tell you that you are wrong or weird or not normal.”

Fueled by stories of prominent and lesser-known athletes on Outsports, Mertens knew the ubiquity of social media would catapult his story into the mainstream. “Twitter was a really big deal in...

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