My work weaves together religious and popular culture traditions to inspire a greater conversation about the human project of creating rhetorical spaces for social engagement. Understanding celebrity as a genre of self-presentation, particularly in the visual media, is commonplace today. Viewing celebrity as a cultural formation that serves a social function in our society is also common in critical practice. It is certainly no surprise then, given the importance of the visual persona in media contexts, that strategies used to create a sports or entertainment star are much the same as those employed to create a political ‘star.’ And further, these strategies could be used to create a social protest ‘star.’ I will argue that William Sloane Coffin and Mavis Leno successfully embody the celebrity persona, but go further by balancing this with a prophetic message – a hybrid construct that may prove integral to a successful campaign to persuade a visual media culture about social change issues. William Sloane Coffin’s influence on his times has been linked to the rise and fall of American religious and political liberalism. Coffin was the liberal equivalent to Billy Graham and from the 1970’s on, the successor to Martin Luther King, Jr. He is one of the most famous American dissenters of the 20th century. Mavis Leno is the chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan and has been one of the most outspoken rhetors on its behalf. My analysis uses as foundation their speeches, media interviews, and personal interviews I have had with both of them.
|Keywords:||Rhetoric, Dissent, Prophetic Rhetoric, Celebrity Rhetoric, William Sloane Coffin, Mavis Leno|
Professor & Chair of Department of Communication and Philosophy, School of Arts & Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida, USA