The Power of Glitter and Gold: Exposing the Influence of Celebrity Endorsements

The Power of Glitter and Gold: Exposing the Influence of Celebrity Endorsements

Group 12: Brianna Wood, Lisa Chanthavisay, Jung Su Kim, & Jenniffer Gonzalez

Topical focus

As a collective, our group is most interested in the influential change of perspective that celebrities have over their fans’ opinions, concerning the “99%.” We find this phenomena important to examine because whether purposeful or not, celebrity endorsements change how participants interpret the Occupy Movement. It can lead to a manipulation in the agenda of the movement and it also sends a conflicted message to audiences, that the “99’s” can be represented by someone in the “One Percent.” This relationship dilutes the intended meaning of the movement but still gathers protesters’ support.

Thesis statement

We will examine how within coverage of the Occupy Movement, journalists have a tendency to use celebrity involvement to convey validation and rationalization, in comparison to more appropriate sources. This is an important claim, because celebrities’ ability to structure a cause makes an important distinction about the amount of weight American society gives to them.  With an emphasis on the social constructivist orientation, we will discuss how inequalities in social structures (celebrity versus non-celebrity) have led to a disparity in the meaning relations of the Occupy Movement, thus regulating the relations of power between differing participants in the movement. Specifically, we will attempt to explain how media uses celebrity endorsements to legitimize the Occupy Movement’s cause.

Discourse Methods

The discourse analysis methods that we chose to employ included several techniques that we found most prevalent and consequently most supportive of our presented argument. These methods are the legitimation techniques of rationalization and authorization, KWIK analysis of the word “we” in context, an examination of excerpts coded for “social class”,  and an analysis of the “collective frames of perceptions” .  These methods allowed our group to focus on how discourse properties perpetuate the patterns we discovered. Most importantly, how a large proportion of articles about celebrities having influence on the Occupy movement, were also highly associated with them having a primary role in how the movement was addressed.

Discourse genre

The discourse genre that our group initially decided to explore was centered in the use of social media to propagate celebrity endorsements. We found highly relevant material throughout hubs like Twitter, Entertainment Blogospheres, and Entertainment news sites. But we soon discovered that many of the excerpts that we found concerning the use of celebrities’ social media outlets did not contain enough substance to validate our claims. They were simply too short to substantiate any real prerogatives. We therefore shifted to an analysis of roughly 121 entertainment media documents written between September and December of 2011, which spoke directly not only about particular celebrities’ opinions on the Movement, but that also addressed said celebrities’ physical immersion in its issues. Our group hoped that entertainment journalists’ slant on the Occupy events would reveal how celebrity endorsements are both expressed (in person) and re-communicated (through text).

Corpus description

Our corpus is 89,254 words. 8,733 types. Type/token ratio: 0.09784435. Date range: September 2011-December 2011. We used Google and LexisNexis searches with search terms: “celebrity endorsement of occupy movement,” “celebrity support occupy movement twitter,” etc. And we used the search engines within specific media outlet sites. These search terms and the texts that we chose to include in our corpus made the most sense because we were searching for celebrity involvement and social media/entertainment news are most likely to report on this, also our date range was a good sampling of the beginning and peak of the movement.

Pattern 1- How Celebrities Classify Themselves

We will look at the relationship between celebrity support of the Occupy Movement and how it is depicted in a rallying effort for the 99%. We found patterns that portray the 1% attacking others in the 1%, and taking the 99%’s view on Wall Street. Since celebrities are aligning themselves with the 99% and directing their mistrust and the real issues at Wall Street workers specifically, their support is seen as positive. An example is an excerpt stating,

“Russell Simmons has been encouraging Occupy Wall Street, tweeting, give power to the people and not to corporations. take the money out of Washington.”

The celebrity support is rallying up against ‘the other’ 1% which is corruption in our government and big business. This gives supporters hope and it is seen as positive because they are getting more press for their cause.

We also think another reason why we see celebrities shed in a positive light is because they support it almost like they become part of that 99%. Before, the celebrities who endorse the occupy movement hadn’t put themselves into the ‘in-group’ or the 99% or created an ‘out-group’ which is Washington and Wall Street specifically. We can see an example of this in a blog that posts,

“On Twitter, celebrities including Russell Simmons pledged their support for the movement. Others on Twitter painted pictures of the situation on Wall Street. Husky in Georgia wrote: At #occupywallstreet, u will find hippies, true.  Also, unions, libertarians, children seniors, ppl with good jobs, and more.”

In the beginning of this excerpt we see the relationship between the celebrity tweet and ‘other peoples’ tweets the texts shows celebrities as the 99%. Celebrities who support the 99% are not only shown in a positive light, they are also depicted as part of the group. In the second part of the selection we see a 99% person stating that all kinds of people from all walks of life are joining in for support.

This positive support that celebrities are endorsing the 99% movement is putting them in the ‘in-group’ and the 99% people are accepting them even though they are not actually part of the 99%. We can see this relationship through our discourse analysis of sociocognitive approach where we look at social actors and social representations (Wodak 2009). When we look at why celebrity endorsements are viewed in a positive light we are examining the social interactions and hidden messages behind those interactions and we come to find that they are aligning themselves with the 99%.

Pattern 2- The 1% as Actors  for the 99%

Wealthy 1% celebrities are supporting 99%, some are hypocrites who are doing it for making their positive image and this has brought up the issue of celebrity validation. Some celebrities identify themselves as 99% because they are afraid to stand out against the crowd.                                      Celebrities have power to influence public opinion and celebrity endorsements change how participants interpret the Occupy Movement. Although celebrities influence perspectives of their fans in either positive or negative way, there have been critiques about celebrities supporting 99% arguing that celebrities are being hypocritical, that they are using this chance to build their positive image and reputation to the public. According to Bowen and Simeone (2012),

“Although celebrities supporting Occupy Wall Street contain a massive amount of wealth, placing them in the same rank as many of the individuals the protests speak against their situations and ways of obtaining wealth are vastly different. Well known wealthy celebrities have associated themselves with the OWS movement by “tweeting” their support via social media outlets such as Twitter. Though their influence is essential for spreading the word about the movement, it is almost natural to question the intentions of these celebs when it comes to helping the 99%.”

Pattern 3- Legitimation

Legitimation refers to the discourse analysis method in which text establishes a legitimacy of institutions, processes, and ideas. In this case, the Occupy Movement’s validity is both authorized and rationalized by celebrities who express a common support of the Occupier’s goal. In the excerpt below, Occupiers themselves give more weight to Celebrities, who they feel can project the Movement better than they can.

“It’s really great to see influential people coming down to these protest because I think it gives a little bit more validity to it when you have people who have respected voices and respected opinions siding with a group of people who have been marginalized by the media[…]”

Here, the speaker Anthony Graffangnino is expressing a legitimation by reference to the authority (of celebrity) by custom. (Fairclough, 98) His next statement, about the reach of celebrity support, demonstrates how rationalization works closely with authorization to enhance the legitimation. By reference to the knowledge society (here Graffangnino) has constructed to endow celebrities. (98)

“Everybody’s voice should be respected equally, but when you have a celebrity, their voice carries much further.”

Similarly, as Fairclough discusses in his examination of semiotics in legitimation, the language used to communicate the Occupiers’ agenda obscures the actual speaker. Occupiers are referred to as “the audience” whereas “celebrities” are referred to by name.

“They can bring a larger and more diversified audience to the cause. I respect any celebrity that’s going to come out and stand up for a cause that’s justified and right. I hope they keep coming down and joining us.”

Again, semiotic use of “us” in the excerpt above is an example of explicit power struggles between Occupiers and Celebrities. The celebrities, seen as outside (but above) occupiers, are given authority to set the agenda of the movement. (100)


This analysis helps us to understand the phenomenon of the influential change of perspective that celebrities have over their fans’ opinions concerning the “99% by exploring the effect of celebrities’ involvement in the movement in different lens through variety of media outlet.In essence, the integral part of our research project was beginning to understand how the media both portrays celebrities as having a more powerful reach in spreading the Occupy agenda and equally, that Occupiers tend to lend their message to celebrities. Through the examination of the way entertainment media communicates and interprets celebrity involvement we were able to conclude that the inequality of power exhibited within the Movement is not just a manipulation by the media, but also a valid expression by protesters. Therefore through legitimation, word choice, and representation of actors, the display of hegemony is further perpetuated.


Amos, Clinton, Gary Holmes, and David Strutton. “Exploring the Relationship between Celebrity                Endorser Effects and Advertising Effectiveness.” International Journal of Advertising. Web.

Bowen, K., & Simeone, G. (2012, April 29). Celebrities Occupy Wall Street. In Occupy Wall Street.          Retrieved May 20, 2012, from          occupy-wall-street/

Entman, R. M. (2007). Framing bias: Media in the distribution of power. Journal of Communication,         57, 163-173.

Little, D. (2008, August 24). Power and social class. In Understanding Society. Retrieved May 25,        2012, from

RODINA, H. E. R. T. A. (September 01, 2007). THEORY AND PRACTICE: An Introduction to                      Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method by GEE, JAMES PAUL. The Modern Language Journal,           91, 3, 476-477.

Wetherell, M., Taylor S., & Yates S. (2001). Discourse as Data. (pp.94-146). London: SAGE.

 Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (2009). Methods of critical discourse analysis. (pp. 1-32). London: SAGE.


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