The revenge of Asia Argento: Desecrating celebrity as a means of celebrity culture

Romana Andò


The pace of production of famous people within the contemporary mediascape seems to have accelerated in recent years, thanks to the connective media that are progressively involving in both the celebrification and celebritisation process a larger and more diverse group of people compared to the past. What is new in the contemporary media system is that is that the intense acceleration of recruitment and “celebrification” can rapidly turn into rituals of degradation, marking significant movements in a person's social position. Moreover, the widespread digital circulation of content on social media and the consequent increasing visibility of celebrity enhances people’s engagement in ways that can result in a necessary amplified “desecrating effect” compared to the past. The aim of this article is to reflect on this phenomenon, starting from the analysis of the very controversial Asia Argento’s case. To briefly summarize the events, Argento was recently involved in two different sexual scandals: in the one involving Harvey Weinstein, she was among the first actresses to speak out about powerful producer’s sexual assaults, playing the roles of both victim and heroine, even if she was also criticised and strongly condemned by public opinion. In the one involving Jimmy Bennett, who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, she played the role of oppressor.

Within a few months (less than one year) the media and the general public attacked Argento, while putting her in the very center of public debate, celebrated and exploited her renewed visibility and success (to be clear, she was forgotten for a while as a celebrity), and then dumped her again (celebrating her as a victim, in the end). Asia Argento’s story is an intriguing example of both the extraordinary growth of contemporary celebrity culture and the exceptional acceleration of both accreditation and desecration processes, resulting in a blended, confused, often conflicted representation of celebrity. Beyond the opportunities for gossip provided by the media’s presentation of this series of events, this ongoing and hasty relationship between celebrification and desecration requires an in-depth analysis.

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