Extraordinary acts and ordinary pleasures: Rhetorics of inequality in young people’s talk about celebrity

Laura Harvey, Kim Allen, Heather Mendick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we start from the problem of inequality raised by the existence of a class of celebrities with high levels of wealth and status. We analyse how young people make sense of these inequalities in their talk about celebrity. Specifically, we revisit Michael Billig’sTalking of the Royal Family, and his focus on rhetorical strategies that legitimate inequalities of money and power. As he argued, in comparing their lives with those of the rich and famous, young people are making sense of the massive disparity between the two, often replacing envy or anger with pleasure in being ‘ordinary’. We extend Billig’s work by looking at a larger class of public figures than royalty, including those with a more permeable border between ‘them’ and ‘us’. In so doing, we expand his categories and attend to the relationship between the gender of celebrities and contemporary rhetorics of inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-444
Number of pages17
JournalDiscourse & Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). See the statement on the article URL.


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