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Twitter love: celebrity romance in the age of social media

By Evelyn Tsitas - posted Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Fabricated romance, scripted passion - if your name is Ken and Barbie or Shane and Elizabeth, chances are the passive onlooker is getting more than their money's worth of titillation from your couplings at the moment.

Follow spin king Shane Warne and actress Liz Hurley on Twitter and you can get blow by blow updates of their love tryst downunder – everything from breathless recounts of the media chase that follows their every move, to requests for where to eat for lunch (to refuel after all those hours of lust, one presumes).

Global love knows no boundaries in the age of social media. When love letters are passé, and private emails can be read via anonymous hackers, why not embrace the spotlight and just conduct your affair via Twitter, where your heart-felt musings can be read by anyone and followed by hundreds of thousands of fans?

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Barbie and Ken are more than plastic toys - they are celebrity simulacra in this age of Twitter love.  According to USA Today; “Barbie and Ken both have extensive social footprints - Barbie is somewhat of a social veteran, but Ken has only recently kicked up his online game.”

Our plastic couple is indeed a lot like Warnie and Hurley, who have been conducting their romance firmly in the public eye, with Shane sharing the latest details with his 318,000 followers on Twitter. Indeed, both couples are living out their flirtations in public, with Warnie and Hurley and Ken and Barbie conducting negotiations (or assignations?) on Twitter and asking anyone to join in the fun.

You can vote of whether you think their romance stands a chance or not. If you care enough on the outcome of Ken and Barbie’s love, go to www.barbieandken.com where you can have your say. Currently, the Love-O-Meter is resting on “Give him a chance”.

Likewise, you can read about the “Ten reasons Shane Warne and Liz Hurley will make it (and ten reasons they won't)” www.news.com.au (Feb9)

Actress Elizabeth Hurley’s visit to Shane Warne’s Melbourne home is big news in Australia. Media has been made to suffer. Pity the poor hacks on the watch for any sign of movement at the station (aka Shane Warne’s palatial residence in the upmarket suburb of Brighton). They had to stand at the gates, trying to peer in (hard when the Twitter extrovert had erected privacy screens around the perimeter).

Not all were impressed, either. As Karl Quinn reported in The Age; “Not all had come willingly: one hack was heard to ask why anybody ''would give a damn about a B-grade actress and an A-grade bogan''. It was a fair question, but one in search of an answer that the alphabetical couple seemed in no hurry to provide. (Feb 10)”

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Call me a cynic, but the very public "romance" currently being played out in the traditional and social media between Ken and Barbie and Warnie and Hurley is simply about profile raising and sales.

Simply conducting a public liaison becomes a news story in itself. And an amusing one at that - gone are the days of the paparazzi stalking celebrities; now “Shane Warne has become the first celebrity to invade his own privacy as he tweets lunch plans with Hurley on her Melbourne visit.” (The Australian, 11 Feb)

Mattel Inc. want to move plastic toys and media organisations want to sell papers and airtime on the back of the Warnie and Hurley romance. And the ordinary punter - they want gossip and they want to live vicariously through others game enough to put their hand up for love and that rush of blood to the head that is romance.

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About the Author

Dr Evelyn Tsitas works at RMIT University and has an extensive background in journalism (10 years at the Herald Sun) and communications. As well as crime fiction and horror, she writes about media, popular culture, parenting and Gothic horror and the arts and society in general. She likes to take her academic research to the mass media and to provoke debate.

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