“He’s gorgeous, plays guitar, and has the voice of an angel – what’s not to love,” these are the words several bloggers clamored to the keyboards to post on Tumblr, describing the allure of Jamie Campbell Bower.Bower, at least in the eyes of mainstream society, is still largely considered an unknown actor.
His filmography remains rather limited with only fourteen performances under his belt and only two of them staring performances (“Jamie Campbell Bower”). Yet, almost paradoxically, Bower’s presence on the internet is pervasive. Fans post his interviews, re-blog his modeling photos, paste his music on their YouTube channels, follow his Twitter feed, and lust over his physique in numerous online forums.
The twenty-five year old British actor and aspiring rock musician gained his breakout performance in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the Broadway Musical, Sweeny Todd, where he played the lovelorn Anthony whilst he was still a teenager (“Jamie Campbell Bower”). Upon leaving school, the actor decided to forgo a university education in pursuit of a music career, forming a band called The Darling Buds which he has funded through the supplemental income garnished from modeling and acting (“Jamie Campbell Bower”).
Though music remains his passion, Bower’s performance roles have continued to gain gradual momentum. Since the age of seventeen, his on-screen roles progressed from minor parts in films such as Anonymous and the BBC’s Prisoners, to larger (but still secondary) roles in the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises, and finally to a leading role in Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (“Jamie Campbell Bower”).
Using the avenue of the internet, Bower’s fan-base have disrupted the typical hierarchy of Hollywood stardom, transforming him into a digital celebrity. Bower’s appeal lies in his association with fandom-centric film franchises, particularly his role in the Mortal Instruments; these franchises add to the actor’s visibility, and his role as Jace Wayland framed his off-screen persona – illustrating the actor to be the embodiment of male objectification and a new form of masculinity.
JCB and Social Media:
Affectionately referred to as JCB (“Jamie Campbell Bower”) by his fans, the actor is known, amongst the online community, for regularly engaging with his fan-base. As demonstrated through various interviews, he’s an advocate of social media; he has a YouTube account that features performances by his band, a Facebook page where his moods and thoughts are recorded through status updates, and a Tumblr account that is updated daily with photos and other links which interest him.
Bower also has a twitter page that serves as a messaging center between himself and his immediate social circles, be they family, friends, or fellow actors. Though a causal viewer must be accepted to view the tweets, his twitter page is linked with his Tumblr account which enables all bloggers who subscribe to him to read whatever conversations are posted. “I’m always online,” (SoftMelodyx) the actor comments, “I’m basically addicted” (SoftMelodyx). Such engagement with social media demonstrates to the fans that the actor is one of them (Booth; Jenkins).
Like the fans that circulate his image on the websites, he too participates in online forums and web-blogs. The actor may even respond to a fan’s comment on his blog. Thus, the fans are led to believe that they, to some small degree, matter to the film star and their devotion is assured. Though it cannot be proven that the actor, himself, manages the activity on these social networking sites, as many actors use media publicists or agents (Booth; Jenkins 149), the major importance is that the fans perceive that he is interacting with them. This perception of being able bridge the gap between ordinary viewers and the film star is essential in understanding Bower’s online popularity (Jenkins 151).
The idea that fans can actually interact with him through social media functions to elevate the fan’s own identity, providing them with a sense of self-importance (Booth; Jenkins 151-152). The fans, in turn, increase the exposure of the actor’s image by re-blogging his photos, posting his interviews, and sharing his music. While the importance of Bower’s interaction with his fans cannot be understated, he is not the only actor to engage his followers, online or otherwise. Thus, Bower’s internet involvement fails to explain why his fans exist in first place.
JCB: Fandom Visibility
Bower’s fan-base can be explained by the roles that the actor has played, with the notable exceptions of Sweeny Todd, and a rather minor role in Anonymous as the young Earl of Oxford, Bower’s on-screen counterparts have been limited to adaptations of young adult novels such as Twilight, Harry Potter, and Mortal Instruments, whose readership is predominantly young and female. Furthermore, teen novels such as Twilight Saga and the Mortal Instruments series feature female protagonists who become embroiled in a star-crossed romance with a male figure who is clearly ‘otherworldly’ both in terms of the narrative’s mythos and in terms of physical beauty. The male protagonists are, therefore, the main selling point of the series as they become objects of desire for the main heroine and, by extension, the female audience (Radway 111-113).
When transformed into a cinematic text, the heroines in these stories function primarily as a second skin for the viewer, a window by which the viewer can insert themselves into the narrative (Radway 112-118). Viewers can vicariously enjoy being loved by the male lead whose ‘otherworldly’ quality is not only projected onto the actor that lies behind the character (Radway 112-118) but is also heightened by the very nature of the film apparatus. Thus, the more desirable the male character is to the viewer, the more desirable the actor who plays the character becomes, and the more exposure the actor’s image gains in online fandom-oriented forums (Jenkins 152-153).
Jamie Campbell Bower’s casting in the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones as the romantic lead is the role that propelled the actor into full-blown heartthrob status for young female bloggers. The character of Jace Wayland, a dangerously seductive demon-hunter who falls in love with an ordinary girl, marked Bower’s first leading role, but the actor was hardly an unknown among the fan-girl online community. Given his rather limited filmography, it could be expected that this star-making performance would circulate his image and career out of the depths of obscurity. However, instead of being a relatively unknown actor, Jamie Campbell Bower has gathered a cult following due to his involvement in lucrative film franchises.
Though Bower primarily plays secondary roles in Twilight and, particularly Harry Potter, these film franchises foster a particularly high degree of fandom activity and, thus, an actor’s mere association with these films ensures a certain amount of visibility amongst the online fandom communities (Booth; Jenkins 153). Bower, himself, is well aware of how much his digital star status is owed to these fandom communities. Bower even jokes about being a “franchise whore” (SoftMelodyx). Fans of large franchises post photos and fan-art relating to the films and, therefore, indirectly aid in circulating the actor’s image (Booth).
The fact that Bower was primarily recognized through his character is relatively insignificant as the more passionate fans of such franchises are more likely to uncover and share biographic information on any actor associated with these films (Booth). Even without a main role, Bower gained a substantial amount of exposure within these fan communities, much more than he would have gained in otherwise fandom neutral films (Booth; Jenkins 154)).
Bower is an object of desire for a female audience (Mulvey 59-61), a fact that is only reinforced by the actor’s simultaneous career as a model (“Jamie Campbell Bower”). Glossy photographs of the actor often reveal him laying down in bed, peering up at the lens through the frayed strands of his golden locks with half open eyes. The very nature of positioning the actor in bed is sexually suggestive as though he is beckoning all viewers of his image to join him. Even photos that feature Bower outside of the bedroom, often show him slouching in a chair or open doorway, his arms held away from his body and his legs spaced apart in an open, almost inviting manner.
Indeed, every adjective describing Bower on the fan-blogs centers upon his physical beauty. Phrases such as beautiful, gorgeous, the face of an angel are but some examples of the comments that fans post in response to his image. Although, Bower attempts to subvert the sexual allure associated with his persona, saying “I don’t really see myself as sexy. I’m a bit of geek,” (SoftMelodyx). His words fall on deaf ears as the camera tells a different story, deliberately displaying him as mechanism for fueling feminine lust.
In addition to his modeling career, the image of Jamie Campbell Bower is further sexualized by his penchant for playing roles that require him to appear in state of undress. In various interviews, Bower continuously comments that the “wholesome squeaky-clean image just isn’t him” (Patty3Xonly; SoftMelodyx). Indeed, the actor encourages his own objectification, showing no qualms about being naked on-screen.
The actor is the male embodiment of to-be-looked-at-ness (Hollinger; Mulvey 62), an image created to fuel female hormones…and the image is proving successful amongst female bloggers. All across Tumblr posts and YouTube comments, viewers are reacting favorably toward the actor’s willingness to shed clothing, seemingly happy that this actor will, in his words, “never make Disney movies” (Patty3Xonly). Yet, the increased circulation of Bower’s image serves as a mere example of a much more serious phenomenon.
The popularity of Bower’s exposed flesh points to a new form of sexual awakening amongst women. Rather than have their own desires denied, female viewers can now use social media to express a sexual autonomy that has typically been reserved for men (Driscoll). The topic of sex is no longer a taboo. Women can indulge their own sexual identity and preferences behind the comfort zone offered by the anonymity inherent within the online forums of the digital age (Driscoll). For instance, in re-posting photos of the actor, many of which are sexually explicit, fans often describe Bower in sensual terms; ‘he’s orgasmic’ one fan wrote (A-Frozen-Shadowhuntress), ‘pure sex’ typed another fan (Trilska).
Also, beyond commenting on the actor’s physical appearance, many fans go one step further, proclaiming the desire to touch him or encounter him intimately (Snowtamer); some fans even go as far as creating erotic fan-fiction featuring Bower which allows them to not only voice their sexual desires but to, at least written form, act them out (Foreverjamiecampbellbower). Online forums have, therefore, become a prime venue for openly consuming and sharing lust-driven texts without fear of reprisals, as the only ones who would view these texts, and the responses they gain, are other fans.
The sexual appeal of Jamie Campbell Bower marks a new dawn in society’s conception of masculinity. Bower’s image is one that is deeply entrenched in androgyny representing a subversive ideal of male idolatry; his gender-bending features are composed of sharp angles, a lean body type, full lips, and long blonde locks. His hands are long and delicate like a woman’s hands. He dresses fashionably in tighter, punk rock clothes (SoftMelodyx). Even his mannerism are more flamboyant than traditional leading men as he speaks with exaggerated hand gestures and has a nervous tick of running his left hand through his hair (SoftMelodyx).
He’s regularly described as beautiful or pretty, not handsome. “I’m not a manly-man,” Bower comments in an interview, openly sharing personal information which most men would find embarrassing such as taking a stuffed bear from a childhood with him everywhere or admitting that movies regularly bring him to tears (SoftMelodyx). Indeed, his feminine appearance and behavior stands in stark contrast to the stereotypical burly heroes that have historically reigned supreme in American cinema.
A-Frozen-Shadowhuntress. “Can’t Concentrate.” Shadowhuntress. Tumblr, 23 July 2013. Web.21 Apr. 2015. Blog.
Booth, Paul. Digital Fandom: New Media Studies. Peter Lang Publishing: New York, 2010.Amazon Digital Edition.
De Cordova, Richard. Picture Personalities: The Emergence of the Star System in America.University of Illinois Press: Illinois, 1990. Print.
Driscoll, Catherine. “One True Pairing: The Romance of Pornography and the Pornography of Romance.” Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Ed. Karen Hellekson. McFarland, 2001. Amazon Digital Kindle Edition.
Ellis, John. “Stars as a Cinematic Phenomenon.” Star Texts: Image and Performance in Film and Television. Ed. J. Butler. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991. Print.
Foreverjamiecampbellbower. “Yum.” Forever Jamie Campbell Bower. Tumblr, 15 Nov. 2013.Web. 21 Apr. 2015. Blog.
Hills, Matt. Fan Culture. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Hollinger, Karen. The Actress: Hollywood Acting and the Female Film Star. Routledge: New York, 2006. Print.
Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York University Press: New York, 2006. Print.
Marshal, David P. “The Cinematic Apparatus and Construction of the Film Celebrity.” Cultural Studies an Anthology. Ed. Michael Ryan, Malden, USA, Oxford, UK, and Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.
Mittell, Jason. Television and American Culture. Oxford Press University: New York, 2010. Print.
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Feminist Film Theory. Ed. Sue Thornham. New York University Press: New York, 1999. Print.
Patty3Xonly. “Jamie Campbell Bower Talks Music and Stardom.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 12 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 March 2015.
Radway, Janice. “Reading the Romance.” Cultural Studies An Anthology. Ed. Michael Ryan, Malden, USA, Oxford, UK, and Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.
Snowtamer. “Jamie.” Blueberry Lights. Tumblr, 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. Blog.
SoftMelodyx. “Jamie Campbell Bower and Lily Collins Talk Mortal Instruments.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 15 Jun. 2013. Web. 12 March 2015.
SoftMelodyx. “Jamie Campbell Bower Interview.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jun. 2013. Web. 12 March 2015.
Stacey, Jackie. “Feminine Fascinations: Forms of identification in star-audience relations.” Stardom: Industry of Desire. Ed. Christine Gledhill. Routledge: New York, 1991. Print.
Staiger, Janet. “Seeing Stars.” Stardom: Industry of Desire. Ed. Christine Gledhill. Routledge: New York, 1991. Print.
Trilska. “JCB Showing Skin.” Viewer Discretion is Advanced. Tumblr, 13 Apr. 2014. Web. 21Apr 2015. Blog.
Tushnet, Rebecca. “Copyright Laws, Fan Practices, and the Rights of the Author.” Fandom Identities and Communities in a Mediated World. Ed. Jonathan Grey, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington. New York University Press: New York, 2007. Print.
Ask: Do You Have a Favorite Internet Celebrity?