What's new pussycat? A genealogy of animal celebrity

John Blewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animal celebrity is a human creation informing us about our socially constructed natural world. It is relational, expressive of cultural proclivities, political power plays and the quotidian everyday, as well as serious philosophical reflections on the meaning of being human. This article attempts to outline some key contours in the genealogy of animal celebrity, showing how popular culture, including fairground attractions, public relations, Hollywood movies, documentary films, zoo attractions, commercial sport and mediatised moral panics - particularly those accompanying scientific developments such as cloning - help to order, categorise and license aspects of human understanding and feelings. The nature of [animal] charisma and celebrity are explored with assistance from Jumbo the Elephant, Guy the Gorilla, Paul the clairvoyant octopus, Uggie the film star, Nénette the orang-utan and Dolly the sheep. It argues that the issue of what it is to be human lies beneath the celebritised surface or, as Donna Haraway noted, the issue 'of having to face oneself'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-338
Number of pages14
JournalCelebrity Studies
Issue number3
Early online date25 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Celebrity Studies on 2014, available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/19392397.2013.831626


  • public
  • film
  • human
  • zoo
  • celebrity
  • animal


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