The Rise of Celebrity Documentaries

Photo by nytimes.com

Along with all the glitz and glamor, achieving celebrity status also draws a large magnifying glass over one’s personal thoughts and matters. Relationships, weight change, family drama and more can be thrust into the open without permission. 

Photo from vogue.com

The negative effects of this are most well known in someone like the late Princess Diana or Britney Spears. In Diana’s case, the paparazzi pursuing the vehicle she was in caused the crash that lead to her death.

In Spears’ case, the pressure of being scrutinized by the media for years combined with mental health struggles spiraled into some of the most well-known public breakdowns in pop culture history. “Framing Britney Spears,” by The New York Times shows an in-depth look into the torment Spears faced from the media.

Photo from usatoday.com

If everyday people have a tendency to put celebrities onto pedestals, documentaries can be grounding and show humility in those we haven’t seen before. These can be shot in one-on-one interviews or by following the subject around and observing, also taking into account the perspectives of family and friends. 

Documentaries about celebrities used to be made primarily by independent organizations during or after the life of the subject with research into their lives. While this still occurs, more recently, celebrities have been releasing documentaries that they’ve produced themselves, controlling the level of intimacy.

Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift are just a few household names of the last few years who have bared their soul in tell-alls. The documentaries have been released on streaming services like Apple TV and Hulu, and often sometimes come ahead of projects like albums.

Taylor Swift’s “Miss Americana” shows the pop star feeling trapped under a “good girl” persona in order to be accepted by the media and fans after her rapid rise to stardom as a teenager. It combines footage of her Reputation Tour with discussions about her eating disorder and the creation of a new album, “Lover.”

Photo from nytimes.com

It also shows the growing confidence of Swift as she becomes less afraid to make public political statements and even denounces Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn in 2018. 

Billie Eilish is one of the youngest pop stars to rise to fame in the past five years with her debut single “Ocean Eyes.” Her new documentary, “The World’s A Little Blurry” follows the recording of her debut album, home life and living on the road. It offers more perspective into the inspiration and creation behind some of her songs. 

Photo from cnn.com

So why choose to release a documentary? One of the most obvious reasons is good press. While it’s more likely that fans or supporters would take the time out of their day to watch these projects, there is still the large possibility that viewers include critics or skeptics.

Socialite and businesswoman Paris Hilton revealed the truth behind her media persona and the abuse she endured at the hands of the “Troubled Teen” Industry. “This is Paris,” revealed how Hilton has had to deal with trauma while being dismissed as a dumb blonde by the media. 

Photo from hollywoodreporter.com

Another reason to release a documentary is to reveal the release of a new album or project. All in all, if albums and art are extensions of the self, then showing the process behind them has the potential to truly connect the subject with the audience. 

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