Masked Men: hacktivism, celebrity and anonymity

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In her 1991 article ‘Signs of Melodrama’ Christine Gledhill provocatively claimed that the Hollywood star system descended from the stage melodrama’s ‘drive to realise in personal terms social and ethical forces’. The disguise is a melodramatic convention, concealing the true personality revealed in the narrative, as the melodrama reveals hidden moral truths. Approaching contemporary celebrity through this dramatic mode, this article considers the unmasking of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden in three recent films, We Steal Secrets, The Fifth Estate and Citizenfour. In true melodramatic style, the films’ presentation of state violence and surveillance is rapidly displaced by moral studies of these three ‘hacktivists’. Drawing on melodrama and genre studies as a methodological approach to studying these films, I trace the mask back to Alan Moore’s anti-melodrama V for Vendetta. This article proposes celebrity studies would be well served by paying closer attention to the political efficacy of celebrity’s opposite: anonymity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-287
Number of pages16
JournalCelebrity Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2015

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