FROM STAN TO STUDYING: WHAT’S WITH UNIVERSITIES OFFERING COURSES ON CELEBRITIES?

FROM STAN TO STUDYING: WHAT’S WITH UNIVERSITIES OFFERING COURSES ON CELEBRITIES?

by Stella Hughes
4 min
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As our parents’ generation love to lament – ‘University just isn’t the same as it used to be’. Thanks for that – our £60,000 worth of debt agrees. And whilst they’re talking about grades, grants, and whatever an O-Level was, there is another element of truth to this, in that you can now study, well, anything.

Whether it’s eyeing-up the exam timetable of Golf Management at one of the country’s self-labelled Russell Group universities, or pondering the job prospects of Egyptology (very slim, I checked), there’s now something for everyone to study at university – no matter how niche that interest may be. 

Whilst the first-wave of chronically online stans (circa 2010-2016) have started to establish a distinct pipeline into marketing and promotion, which actually makes a lot of sense, the teenage stans of today are actually being offered the opportunity to continue their extracurricular activities as part of an actual university course, with more and more frequency. Enter the celebrity-based uni course – or, at least, module.

One of the most-studied celebrities? Beyoncé – who has been the subject of multiple courses and seminars over her decade spanning career. Sitting at the intersection of pop culture, politics and arts, it’s not hard to see why. The University of Copenhagen teaches Beyoncé, Gender and Race – which examines her social impact (vast) and philosophy (fierce) as well as her work. 

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In her home state, the University of Texas has experienced huge demand for its class titled Black Women, Beyoncé & Popular Culture. Speaking on creating the class, the UoT professor noted that “Studying race, gender, class and pop culture theory is incredibly fun… and incredibly hard. The students realise that these larger topics are interconnected. Everyone is able to come together over Beyoncé.” We have to agree.

Earlier this year (and in Texas as well), Professor Louie Dean Valencia sent Harry stans into meltdown by tweeting that he’s now teaching a course called Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet, and European Pop Culture, which dives into “understand(ing) the cultural and political development of the modern celebrity” as well as providing “an idea of questions around globalism, issues around gender, sexuality, race, and really trying to kind of peel apart how did we become a part of the world that we’re living in today”.

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Barbz rejoice – a Nicki course was just announced today, too. Titled Nicki Minaj: The Black Barbie Femmecee & Hip Hop Feminisms, the course will be part of African American studies at UC Berkeley. Delving into the context of broader historical-social structures & hip-hop feminisms, Nicki has even co-signed, tweeting that she’d “love to stop by”.

Over the years, we’ve seen courses dedicated to (or including the works of) Kendrick, Jay-Z and Tupac to name just a few. And to be honest – it makes sense. Never has there been a brighter age of celebrity. Thanks to the total integration of social media into today’s cultural landscape, anyone can be a celebrity – and celebrity output reaches dizzying new heights thanks to the apps’ insane reach over the global population. 

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Historically, we’ve always had an interest in celebrities – they were just religious or royal figures, rather than Kardashians. It makes sense to harness and develop this natural intrigue into translatable skills: the examination of our fascination with celebrity and an understanding of the drivers behind it seems valuable for careers in marketing and media, among others. 

However, sometimes it’s just about following your interests – and if we’re going to be paying that much money to study at university, as well as committing ourselves to a lifetime of debt for the honour of doing so, it may as well be about Harry Styles as anything else. It’d certainly make for a more interesting analysis conversation of what’s going on the world today (read: incel Harry in Don’t Worry Darling) than a traditional degree would afford.

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