by Glenn Fairman 11/24/13
“Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” –George Burns • Katharine Hepburn’s famous dictum: “Acting is the perfect idiot’s profession,” sheds a ribald but probative illumination on the aesthetics of stage and screen, and perhaps allows us to put into perspective the widely circulated commercials featuring Alec Baldwin, who one longs to hear read dramatically, “Don’t panic, I’m an intellectual—I play one on TV.” Hollywood is all about patchwork facades, flattering camera angles, and the uncanny ability to render the odious as noble or have the virtuous appear tainted. It is for this reason that Plato viewed the arts as thrice removed from reality: having the propensity to steer the mind from reason and logic and filter life through the warped mirror of passionate emotion. Poets, cinematographers, screenwriters, and actors have within their fingertips the ability to sway the moral imagination into opaque corners of the human conscience. One need only to reflect briefly on Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” and its depiction of Nazi ardor and Aryan virtues to understand how theatrics in the lens of a Master can sway a population to march into an apocalypse.[pullquote]Hollywood is all about patchwork facades, flattering camera angles, and the uncanny ability to render the odious as noble or have the virtuous appear tainted.[/pullquote]
That being said, I am more concerned with the psychology of the actor, who in the scheme of things is an empty cipher, devoid of content until filled with the verbiage of word crafters whose job is to deliver scripts unto an audience via a range of feelings, resulting in a credible performance that will translate into entertaining drama or comedy. The best actors and actresses are masters of moral suasion for evoking pathos or empathy into their roles-so much so that their actual personas often disappear and through suspension of disbelief they are ultimately, for all intents and purposes, embodied into their characters. Hollywood stars have within their grasp the ability to not only command large sums of money and fame from their craft, but by the very nature of their visibility, have a natural bully pulpit to expound their own ideas and sentiments. It is perhaps here that such personalities are felled by their own audacities.
Aristotle maintains that those who are excellent in one thing often make the error of believing that this excellence extends unto all things. When a highly visible group of people, known for dissembling emotions for a living, attempts to translate passion that is lacking in cerebral content into the political sphere, we are left with the Hollywood Air Head: foggy intellects who so want to be loved and admired for something more than being a disposable player of parts. How easy it is to glide on the cultural zephyrs of an age, holding that universal love and equality are the humanist lode stones that bring unto unity all things. Hollywood is a mile wide and a millimeter deep, and so any commitment that hawks: environmental concerns, the commensurability of animals to humans, or the moral superiority of Palestinians, Cubans, Che, Chavez, or Egypt’s Morsi all fits nicely into the ephemeral screenplay of the Underdog vs. Imperialist Might.
Like a third rate teen flick where the bully gets his comeuppance, Hollywood and its cast of icons are playing to the willingly credulous, hoping that they can convince those in the cheap seats that they care in an impassioned way before driving back to their gated community in Malibu– away from the moral and political wreckage that they spin for a living in fairy tales abstracted from the rule of commonsense in the bleak workaday world. For we who know better, is it not self evident that Hollywood obscures the unforgiving character of the real world, where stupidity exacts a perilous toll and those who flout economic and moral iron laws are unceremoniously repaid with life’s cruel boot in their kisser?[pullquote]…we are left with the Hollywood Air Head: foggy intellects who so want to be loved and admired for something more than being a disposable player of parts.[/pullquote]
It is telling about ourselves as consumers of fantasy that we ascribe merit to people far beyond their worth by the sole fact that they are seen in the penumbra of Hollywood–giving undue credence to human chameleons, whom if we knew them in their mundane lives away from the alluring nectar of fame, we might turn our nose up in derision. As we get older, and hopefully are less susceptible to the pretty face or the passionate pleas for understanding and absolving stupidity in all its manifold permutations, we come to understand that Hollywood and actors in general are cogs in a fantasy machine that spits out lovely lies and lovely liars in exchange for the medium of our hard earned money. So often, the comely maiden and the mouth watering hunk have spent their entire existence trading on those externalities in the hope that they too will draw the attentions of acceptance and adoration—and these same people would tell you that the moon was made of cream cheese if it increased their popularity quotient.
Since the aggregate population of Hollywood, like that of Academia or the Progressive caste of politics, are insular and clannishly keep reinforcing themselves within the confines of a closed hermeneutic circle, the echo chamber of liberalism and fantasy spill over their boundaries, so that reality and the” stuff that dreams are made of” loses a rational coherence. In the end, the public can no longer discern if the droning in their ears are words of some Hollywood screen hack or are the detritus of some stilted public education.[pullquote]…we come to understand that Hollywood and actors in general are cogs in a fantasy machine that spits out lovely lies and lovely liars in exchange for the medium of our hard earned money. [/pullquote]
How easy to be loved when one dispenses with the formalities of the discriminatory mind and enshrines a broad tolerance as one’s guiding star. How hard it is to set one’s chin against the prevailing cultural hurricane that Hollywood and the media in general generate in their mission to refashion human perception into the form of a liquid that seeks a perfect level and occupies the lowest possible cavity available for it. Expecting real wisdom from a tribe that is steeped in the emotive faculty is asking for a thing that for the greatest part cannot be. Better to think for yourselves, turn off the tube and open up something cerebral: like Winona Ryder’s biography-where she states in her cryptic existentialist fashion, “I feel my best when I’m happy.”
Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at email@example.com.