Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dolly Parton: Master Simulator

I chose to research Dolly Parton because she is often misunderstood by people unfamiliar with more than her appearance. I, too, did not know a ton about her life or work before this project, outside of a few songs and her appearances as "Aunt Dolly" on Hannah Montana. I have come to the conclusion that because of, and in spite of, her public image and physical appearance, she is one of the most unique figures in our culture, and is able to perform her public identity as extravagantly as one of her musical performances.

In my last new media class a year ago I researched Bob Dylan, and came to some interesting but disappointing conclusions about his character. In researching Dolly, I've had exactly the opposite experience. Judging solely from her meticulously curated public image, I think Dolly is an undeniable force for good in the world. She lives and embodies an attitude of humor, compassion, acceptance of difference, sex-positivity, and self-awareness that I think will be her greatest contribution to our culture, even more than her music, film, or amusement park.

Dolly with a kitten- a foolproof publicity move since forever

I think celebrities are really fascinating because of how public opinion factors into their lives and how they handle it– especially female celebrities, for whom the attention is always focused on their bodies and physical selves. Dolly Parton seems to handle it in the best way possible: She gives the public what they want until she becomes a parody of those very desires, and then continues to be just as confident and lighthearted as ever because none of it is real. She inspired me to explore how different famous women deal with their public images: How they take control over that part of their lives, how much power they have over their image and what they do with it. This will be the focus of my final project, and I thank Dolly for inspiring it. 

"Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum" 

"Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation." ... And Dolly Parton is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when she is simply a continuation of the widespread reality of constructed, plastified femininity. No other celebrities are real either, they're just pretending.


  1. i love Dolly and i loved your description of her! i think it's really easy to look at her and judge at face value but you really went beyond that and i think that's really great

  2. so obsessed with your presentation! you captured her so, so well. celebrities like Dolly really tickle my fancy, Gaga definitely had to have taken notes from her. Also this is definitely Ru, hyper-aware of the reality of what their jobs are like and the lengths that they have to go to in order to keep themselves relevant and on the forefront of their industries. job well done :)

  3. I was aware of Dolly Parton, but never really read much about her, but I never thought she would intentionally behave as a parody of herself in a lot of ways. I only knew that Joan Rivers would do that.

  4. I didn't know much about Dolly before your presentation, but I had read a bit about her and that while many people see her as a fake, she's actually a very skilled musician. I love that your presentation showed how intelligent and self-aware she really is, a lot of people underestimate her.