Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Communication and Rhetorical Studies
Visual and Performing Arts
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Speech and Rhetorical Studies
This study examines the relationship between the celebrity persona and the American telethon. Today, it is rare to find a celebrity that is not connected to a specific, charitable or social cause, making apparent strides in the charity industry because of their ability to influence the general public. In the last 70 years, telethons have evolved in a myriad of ways because celebrities and charity are intertwined. Most significantly, the seriousness and sacredness of the American telethon has decreased because of how many telethons are currently in existence. Additionally, an increase in the number of celebrities involved in telethons has contributed to this loss of inviolability. Evaluated through a descriptive analytical lens, this thesis examines three telethon events to paint a picture of this evolution and to demonstrate how celebrities from Jerry Lewis to Kanye West have played a role in the progression and eventual commercialization of telethons. Celebrities have learned from the standards Lewis set, both building upon them and steering clear of the ways in which he tarnished the relationship between celebrity and charity with his exaggerated persuasive appeals. These events do have a right to shy away from what was once considered to be the “gold standard” of telethons. There is no one formula; it is more so about striking the proper balance between charity and celebrity to ensure that the new standard reflects the goals and ideals its telethon has set out to achieve.
Meister, Kyra, "Call Me Maybe: An Analysis of the Effect of the Celebrity Persona on the American Telethon" (2019). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 1073.
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Available for download on Thursday, June 25, 2020