Ripping off Hollywood celebrities: Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, luxury fashion and self-branding in California | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2044-2823
  • E-ISSN: 2044-2831



My article takes The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola (2013) – and the post-Fordist, promotional, consumerist constellation it is consciously set in – as a case study of the metamorphosis of the agency, value and meaning of celebrity in contemporary California. I discuss how, in the era of social networking, the construction of celebrity has undergone a process of transformation that entails two conflicting, although strictly interlaced, tendencies. On the one hand is the Hollywood star, supported by a persisting industrial policy and holding a monopoly of attention. On the other is the multiplication of platforms for distributing visibility, including the spectacle of fashion-bloggers, trend-setters and ‘celetoids’ and forms of self-publicity, self-broadcast and life-casting of ‘ordinary individuals’ through the web. Especially, thanks to the diffusion of luxury fashion brands (and a precise marketing policy), a new liaison is taking place between the accredited star and a type of fans increasingly transforming themselves into would-be celebrities. I suggest here that the ‘Bling Ring’ story can be better understood when set against the background of LA’s culture of branding and self-branding, a culture of self-commodification marked by the idea of empowerment through ever-renewing skills of self-presentation and artificially framed styles of life. At the same time, I hint at the social disparity embedded in LA, with its elites’ ambivalent behaviour, including the nostalgic glance of a Hollywood insider (Coppola), to contest a notion of ‘democratization’ of fame. I wish to demonstrate how new-media-conveyed developments in American youth’s behaviour – based on the skills of networking, on the auto-didactic, entrepreneurial activity of web participation, on open access and unrestricted appropriation – are challenging the privilege of fame aristocracy (the Hollywood stars), but not its vertical concentration of wealth and its individualized mode of power.


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