Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2008-11-25

Pop Goes the Book: Angelina Jolie

Are New York Times writers reading Liz's & my book?

From a recent article about Angelina Jolie and her Carefully Orchestrated Image (which, if she is looking for a supporting band name, in case this whole international film superstardom doesn't work out for her, Her Carefully Orchestrated Image would be a great one. You can have that one for free, Angie!):

While all celebrities seek to manipulate their public images to one degree or another, Ms. Jolie accomplishes it with a determination, a self-reliance and a degree of success that is particularly notable. The actress does not employ a publicist or an agent. The keys to her public image belong to her alone, although she does rely on her longtime manager, Geyer Kosinski, as a conduit.

[...]

But more recently, she has emphasized her philanthropic work, and her growing family. Ms. Jolie, with Mr. Pitt, now has a clan of six. There are three adopted children — Maddox, Pax and Zahara — and three biological children: Shiloh and the twins, Knox and Vivienne.

But she cut a very different, wilder figure in Hollywood during her marriage to the actor Billy Bob Thornton. After their divorce in 2003, Us magazine asked Ms. Jolie if she would agree to an interview and be photographed. According to two people involved, she declined — but then offered the magazine another photo opportunity. Ms. Jolie informed it what time and place she would be publicly playing with Maddox, essentially creating a paparazzi shot.

The resulting photo, the origin of which was not made public to Us readers, presented Ms. Jolie in a new light — a young mother unsuccessfully trying to have a private moment with her son.
Meanwhile, here's what we wrote, about a year ago:

Pop culture is overflowing with examples of people who successfully combine advocacy, marketing, and public relations -- they're called celebrities. Few celebrities acknowledge or admit the degree to which they create their own "spin," and not all do it well. And, of course, while celebrities can spin, they cannot control the media [though that NYT article puts the lie to that assumption]. What they can do is decide how and when to release photographs (Suri Cruise's Vanity Fair cover) and give smartly timed interviews in magazines like InStyle, Us Weekly, and People.

Look at Angelina Jolie: In the early 2000s, she was Hollywood's "wild child", giving interviews about her bisexuality and fondness for S&M (Lindsay Lohan looks tame by comparison!). Now, Jolie is the beloved mother of a growing family, giving interviews about playdates and humanitarian issues. We're not saying that Jolie is not a loving mother or a dedicated worker for various causes, just that she recognizes how the public reacts to the story of her happy family. With each additional child she has, by adoption or birth, Jolie tells a story about how that child entered her lief and how that child adds to and completes her family. This involves advocating and marketing an element of herself that the public reacts to favorably. As for public relations, open almost any popular magazine and you'll see a photo of Jolie as a proud mother walking her smiling child to school or with her children playing contentedly together on the beach. If Angelina Jolie can do it, so can the library. [p.63-4]
Indeed. Perhaps ALA could schedule an advocacy @ your library preconference with Ms. Jolie the next time we're in New Orleans for Annual?

Cross-posted at Pop Goes the Library's book blog, which we'd love for you to read. (The blog and the book, that is.)

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2008-02-20

Cross-Marketing YA: Good or Bad?

A recent article in the New York Times, about James Patterson's Maximum Ride series, made me wonder if perhaps the future holds a major shift in marketing YA books. This article explains how Little, Brown is asking booksellers to give Maximum Ride the same push as Patterson's adult books: keeping them at the front of the store, shelving copies in the adult section, and redesigning the covers and flap copy to appeal as much to adults as to teens.

Two interesting quotes from this article, and my thoughts:

"According to market research conducted by Codex Group on behalf of Little, Brown, more than 60 percent of the readers of the “Maximum Ride” series are older than 35."

When the first Maximum Ride book came out, I know I had a lot of adults wanting it, not aware that it was for teens. And as I recall, a large number of adults didn't want it once they learned it was for teens. Of course, this was a couple of years ago, before the last two Harry Potter books and before the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. But I'm still surprised that so many adults are reading Maximum Ride.

"On the back of both “The Final Warning” and “Daniel X” is a new marketing rubric defining each book as a “James Patterson Pageturner,” written “for readers from ten to a hundred and ten.” Reminding readers of the books’ young-adult roots, the pitch promises that “special care has been taken with the language and content.”"

This is the part that really gave me pause. Now, admittedly, James Patterson is in a class of his own when it comes to marketing and writing; it's unlikely that there's more than a handful of authors who would get this kind of treatment. But it makes me wonder if publishing houses are going to start doing more projects like this: books that are aimed towards all audiences, without "inappropriate language and content". Because honestly? That's not just a disservice to teens; it's a disservice to adults. It reminds me of one of the arguments against Internet filtering: in order to screen objectionable material from children and teens, you end up blocking adults' access to information that they need.

Once we turn eighteen, we don't stop needing books that make us question our lives, our choices, and our futures. On the whole, many books for young adults are all about questioning, and I think that's why they have held such appeal for adults. Yet this doesn't mean that publishers should only give us teen literature that does this; we need literature for all ages that seeks to burst the balloons of ignorance and the status quo. And as much as I want more adults to read YA literature, I don't want them to only be reading it.

What do you think? Am I being a bit too Chicken Little, or could this be something we should be concerned about?

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