The changing media representation of T. E. Lawrence and celebrity culture in Britain, 1919-1935

Owens, Edward (2015) The changing media representation of T. E. Lawrence and celebrity culture in Britain, 1919-1935. Cultural and Social History, 12 (4). pp. 465-488. ISSN 1478-0038

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Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

This article presents a new analysis of representations of T. E. Lawrence to explore how the media created celebrity identities in interwar Britain. Examining his appearance in seventeen national newspapers and in newsreels between 1919 and 1935, it shows how earlier press depictions that borrowed from Lowell Thomas’s portrayal of him as the mythical ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ were disrupted by a nascent media-driven celebrity culture which aimed to uncover intimate details of the lives of the so-called ‘real’ people that were believed to exist behind the outward personae of the famous. By the late 1920s, the press’s attention had switched from Lawrence as an imperial adventurer to focus on the intensely private man who lay behind the public image of the ‘Blonde Bedouin’. This shift in emphasis denoted a significant change in the way celebrities were presented by the news media in interwar Britain. Journalists intensified their exposure of celebrities’ private lives to amplify the empathetic connection between the public and the famous at a time when new modes of self-fashioning were configured through expression in private, domestic life. This shift was also informed by growing anxieties regarding how public figures communicated their social authority to the new audiences of the interwar mass media, with newspapers and newsreels exposing famous people’s private lives to generate emotional connections with members of the public which would strengthen concepts of social leadership and trust.

Keywords:Celebrity, T. E. Lawrence, private life, Newspapers, Newsreels, NotOAChecked
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V320 Social History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V210 British History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V146 Modern History 1920-1949
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
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ID Code:24285
Deposited On:27 Sep 2016 10:29

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