Since December 2009 – Istanbul/Turkey

Archive for December, 2009

Commodification of Tarkan


“I came across a promotional newspaper supplement about some electronic stuff and was surprised to see that Tarkan’s photo was used for the promotion of a 20GB memory card. Those who would buy the product would get a “Tarkan” bonus as well: his video and 10 songs in digital format. Seeing this, I remembered the latest pose of Tarkan in an advertisement to boost the sales of Turkish oranges in the Russian market and I could not help thinking about the relationship between celebrities and consumer culture.

One of the sources I checked was Chris Roje’s Celebrity (2001) where he claimed that “capitalist systems want individuals to be both desiring objects and objects of desire.” I could see the truth in his claim simply by looking at my own and other people’s individual consumption habits. There are many times when we prefer one product to the other just because the product we have chosen is linked to the celebrity figure we love… Beyonce’s “True Star” fragrance collection, Beckham’s Armani underwear… examples are plentiful both at local (here in Turkey) and at international scope.

What is common in visual representations of these products is that while celebrities are used as objects of desire, we (customers or fans) are asked to play the role of desiring objects and feel fulfilled and complete once we have bought the products being promoted.

There is also another way of looking at the relationship between celebrities and consumer culture. Celebrities like Tarkan, Beyonce and Beckham must be making some money by simply accepting to give their names to the products or by accepting to be associated with the products. I am not saying this is right or wrong. I am just trying to point out that by doing so, these celebrities inevitably say “yes” to their own commodification as well. They lose their agency and turn into commodities through what they offer to the customers and/or their fans.

And “us” as customers and/or fans? What do we do? We follow our beloved celebrities, feel gratified and enjoy the sense of belonging to a group because there are many others out there buying the same products as we do… And we happily consume those who we say we love so much….

Or sometimes we resist and don’t go with the… ”


Just like Tarkan

We all know that Tarkan does not appear in public often unless he has a concert or he is part of an event. However, popular media never gives up on him. Their coverage of celebrities very often has a touch of Tarkan even though their news items are not primarily about Tarkan. The most recent example of such media coverage can be found in a very short article posted on Hurriyet Kelebek’s website. It is mainly about Kenan Dogulu’s performance for a charity event at Ciragan Palace Kempinski. However, interestingly, the title of the article is “Kenan is back just like Tarkan”. The article simply says that Kenan Dogulu’s latest hair style and the boots he was wearing for the special event at Ciragan Kempinski were [too] similar to what Tarkan had when he came back from the States a few months ago.

When you read the celebrity news more closely, you can easily find Tarkan between the lines. And we believe that this is nothing but an indication of the news value of the name “Tarkan”.