We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

What is it with the acting profession?

Over at Counting Cats, NickM uses suitably salty language to say what he thinks of the actor Jeremy Irons for coming out with “there are too many humans on the planet” sort of comments.

I am not going to add to the post in question – I am pretty certain that we have trodden this ground fairly well already – but I wanted to ask the question as to why is it, that folk in the acting profession, or at least most of them, seem to hold such statist/Greenie views? Maybe it is an impression not based on a lot of hard statistics, but I’d guess that the acting trade is disproportionately full of folk who hold these kinds of opinions. Of course, there are actors who are a bit of a break from the trend – think Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood and the playwriter, Tom Stoppard, but they are often notable for being exceptions to the rule.

Maybe it is because, as actors, they view business, and people with cash, as somehow alien. Or maybe it is because, as actors, they often take on a generally adversarial view to the prevailing culture, and for many, being adversarial is still to be left-wing, to champion things such population control, government aid to Africa, or whatever.

Or maybe it goes right back to when they were at school. They probably were not on the same wavelength, emotionally or socially, with the kind of people who excelled at hard science, or who showed a flair for business and sport. Some may even have been quite badly bullied or put upon by the school “toughs” and took a sort of view that they’d take their revenge on society by the kind of plays/films they would get involved in, or the causes they would espouse.

Like I say, this is all very impressionistic. But the weakness for certain celebrities in the acting business for such causes deserves to have a sort of Phd thesis. I wonder if one has ever been written.

62 comments to What is it with the acting profession?

  • Frank S

    Some further superficial thoughts. Actors are presumably particularly sensitive to the moods and attitudes of others they are in contact with, and are also good imitators, and ‘assumers’ of points of view. Perhaps they are also more swayed by intentions than by deep analysis or results, making them ideal greenie fodder. Finally, they may well have a larger than is commonplace need for praise and applause. All of these may lead to a higher level of political conformity within their subculture than in most others.

  • Tanuki

    Have a look at this:


    It could explain a lot.

  • It’s a very good question. Have you considered that it might be a natural effect of market selection?

    They are professional makers of fantasy. One of the oldest and most powerful fantasies in a harsh world is that of setting its many injustices and cruelties to rights – that if only We Good People can once win, then a better world will come in the morning.

    In real life, bitter experience has taught people to be careful of those who make them such promises as a matter of politics, though not nearly careful enough. But in their fantasies, and especially in dramatic fantasies which inherently tend to be driven by human agency, the rewards of a dream of justice or beauty come without the killing price tag.

    Who will tend to convey a dream the most movingly? Who but somebody who earnestly and romantically believes in it?

    So we should expect all beautiful and romantic, but practically disastrous, visions to be specially over-represented amongst those are paid to build shows of light and shadow, rather than pacts of trade and trust, or matters of steel and stone.

  • Tanuki: admittedly having not yet read the article at Cato, why would actors presume to count themselves among the intellectuals?

  • von Mises wrote about this in The Anticapitalist Mentality

    http://mises.org/etexts/mises/anticap.asp (Link)

    An excerpt on Hollywood & Broadway:

    Like the master-builder in Ibsen’s play, he fears the unknown newcomers, the vigorous youths who will supplant him in the favor of the public.

    It is obvious that there is no relief from what makes these stage people uneasy. Thus they catch at a straw. Communism, some of them think, will bring their deliverance. Is it not a sys­tem that makes all people happy?

  • Answer: They want to be loved by strangers and supported by a rich patron.

    p.s. for all those who want to curb the population growth, I say set and example and top yourself. Everything else is just hypocrisy.

  • Sorry Tim, but this does not make sense. It would, if Irons was talking about reducing the existing population (by killing the, er, excess humans, for example). This is different from demanding to curb the population growth, which would imply limiting procreation in one way or another (Chinese style?). Irons does have two adult sons, but he could always claim that he came to his current view on the subject after having them, and it would be a legitimate claim, at least on the face of it. You could accuse him of hypocrisy only if he was about to have more children after making the above-quoted statement.

    None of the above is to imply, however, that I would have any matter-of-fact objection to Irons and his ilk topping themselves.

  • I personally tend towards the idea that such “intellectuals” although visible, actually inhabit a slightly alternative reality in some odd kind of parallel universe…
    To put it another way, they’re not from this planet, mate, so it’s no good trying to apply human logic to them.
    Then again – the acting profession is not exactly the same as working for a living, is it? So, unlike the middle classes, they don’t actually feel the pain of paying for their high-minded ideas, do they?

  • RRS

    “Personalities,” persons of some degree of public prominence or acquaintance, generally have no more depth of thought processes than the average individual regardless of their abilities to articulate (and to obtain an audience for that articulation) whatever “crosses their minds.”

    The ability to articulate does not improve the quality of thought.

    Consider the entertainers:

    Most live, work, write and conceive in and about a constructed world or fabfricated relationships.

    That goes back even to Shakespeare, with his constructs of history and fabrications of fantasies, tragedies and romance.

    The lives and exposures of most such persons are emeshed in constructs of what could be which are but a step away from conclusions of what ought to be.

    Thus, it is not unexpected that those persons find that the ideas of a constructed ( some prefer the term “fabricated” because it also implies falsity) social order not only feasible, but necessary and desirable.

    A constructed society is a comfortable complement for their areas of participation in human relationships.

  • A pamphlet from the Libertarian Alliance: Why is the creative world so socialist and what, if anything, can we do about it?

    Quote: “The most straightforward and easily identifiable factor is that so many artists rely on public sector finance for a living”

    But there’s also good stuff on more psychological factors.

  • Millie Woods

    Some years ago when the Beyond the Fringe types were at the height of their popularity one of the group who had been raised in a family where most of his relastives were engaged in some kind of scientific pursuit wrote about his amazement at the naivete and superficiality of the acting profession. He particularly had difficulty with their latching on to sky is falling beliefs and was appalled at their lack of basic knowledge of how society functions. With Jeremy’s nonsense now offered up for popular consumption it seems like a clear case of plus ca change.

  • f0ul

    My son is an aspiring actor.

    While this is his choice, I do find it interesting how he works and thinks. Firstly, many actors (the good ones) have a tendency to be noticeably high on the Autistic spectrum disorder. They are good at acting because everything that happens has been planned, and there is no need to deal with indecision or circumstances out of their control.

    Yes, this surprised me too, but we’ve picked up a lot of information from his tutors at college.

    The point is that as such, they will have picked u various pieces of information at school and college – which tend to be left wing, student drivel, and taken it as gospel. Where as the rest of us develop our skills and social knowledge as we age and travel through life, actors don’t.
    They don’t mix outside their peers, and all the new people they meet are either other actors, or young students (with their drivel) wanting to join the industry.

    The ones who do venture into an element of money and business, tend to just look at project funding as a lump sum. It either comes from big business wanting to do populist, money making, low brow, projects – or the government funding, unpopular, high brow, self-righteous nonsense!

    It ends up being self perpetuating!

  • For the same reason the most extreme leftists at my University were “toffs”. Guilt. He finds himself unexpectedly (and probably he feels, undeservedly) in possession of 7 homes and enormous wealth on the basis of a slight talent valued highly by the market. 95% of his professional colleagues (many more talented than him) are “resting” on the dole. When his opinions are sought (suddenly more interesting, but no more valuable, than they were when he was young and obscure) he searches for badges of virtue to assuage his guilt. He’s trying to sound compassionate (and, if I may offer a note, making a pig’s ear of it).

  • Alice

    I vote for Tom Paine’s explanation. The only actors whose opinions we hear are the “celebrities” — the ones who have come by great success and great rewards without commensurate effort. The lottery winners, so to speak.

    Guilt is indeed the likely reason for professing greenie socialist nonesense — while jetting off in a private plane to a Mediterranean mansion cleaned by underpaid immigrants.

    Of course, the rest of us can choose not to pay any attention to their celebrity opinions.

  • Alice and Tom hit on something important. It is impossible to work in Hollywood or the entertainment industry in general and not notice how random and arbitrary the fame lottery really is. Goodlooking, charming people are far from being a rare commodity in the world and the people who get to do their thing on the silver screen form a tiny arbitrarily chosen subgroup of lottery winners from that vast sea of goodlooking charming people. The rest wait tables or work as bartenders. When you work in a profession where the relationship between inputs and outputs seems so small, it is probably normal to extrapolate from your own experience that the rest of the world works in a similar way and want to address this ‘unfairness.’

  • One more thing to consider. It is a pretty well known fact that by and large young people skew further to the left than older folks.

    Hollywood actors by and large make their living entertaining the young. The most avid consumers of pop culture are the sub-thirty set. Being successful in Hollywood is thus largely dependent projecting a persona that is appealing to the young and naive. Hence the nonsensical student politics that defines Hollywood is geared toward their target market. I don’t think this is a conscious thing but it doesnt have to be. If there is one thing actors are sensitive to it how best to generate sympathy from their target audience. I imagine it is as natural as breathing for them

  • I think that f0ul wins the thread, with the important addendum of Tom’s and Alice’s guilt point.

  • Bollocks. The proportion of actors holding a statist weltanschauung is surely little different from that proportion of the general population holding a statist weltanschauung, i.e. a majority.

    Those actors that do hold such views do so because they are cunts, not because they are actors. FFS.

  • The proportion of actors holding a statist weltanschauung is surely little different from that proportion of the general population holding a statist weltanschauung, i.e. a majority.

    Not in the US (where virtually all of them work and most of them live), I don’t think, although it is true that their opinions are heard, unlike those of the rest of us.

  • I think Mike has pretty much got it. I live in LA, where even the snow-cone vendors are out of work actors, and my impression from talking to a variety of completely unknown actors is that their political beliefs are no different than the rest of the population.

    I suspect the trend that Mr. Pearce is commenting on really has more to do with a tendency by socialist reporters to give publicity to people who agree with them. Consider this: there are some actors who don’t fit the trend (like Clint Eastwood), and some who do (like Jeremy Irons), but are there not a great many more actors from whom you’ve never heard anything at all about their political beliefs?

  • A reading:

    “One day Henry Luce called me up and asked me to come to supper.

    There were three of us. The second guest was a nimble, witty European whom I shall call Smetana. At supper, most of the talk was between Luce and Smetana. I was rather a silent guest. I was fresh from the shadows; bright conversation hurt my mind. In fact, I had left behind the world of Time and those who lived within it. It was only the friendliest of fictions that I still belonged to it.

    No one mentioned Communism or the Hiss Case until we sat over our coffee in the living room. Mrs. Philip Jessup had just used her personal good offices to try to get me off Time. Luce was baffled by the implacable clamor of the most enlightened people against me. ‘By any Marxian pattern of how classes behave,’ he said, ‘the upper class should be for you and the lower classes should be against you. But it is the upper class that is most violent against you. How do you explain that?’

    ‘You don’t understand the class structure of American society,’ said Smetana ‘or you would not ask such a question. In the United States, the working class are Democrats. The middle class are Republicans. The upper class are Communists.’ ”

    (Whittaker Chambers — “Witness”, 1952, p. 616)

  • Craig

    If there aren’t too many people on the planet, at what population would you think is too many? 10 billion? 50 billion? 100 billion?

  • “If there aren’t too many people on the planet, at what population would you think is too many? 10 billion? 50 billion? 100 billion?”

    Any number – minus all those who are prepared to answer such a monstrous question with weapons.

  • Sam Duncan

    Having read the LA paper Natalie linked to, and having family members involved in amateur music and drama (serious, 2000-seat theatre stuff, rather than church halls; “semi-professional” might be more accurate), I’m certain it’s just the nature of the business. The professionals my relatives work with simply don’t have a clue about money: you spend what you have – you spend what you don’t have – and let somebody else worry about what happens next. Money is not their concern; the show is what’s important.

    And I’ve seen first hand what a kick in the teeth it is when you put months of work into a production and end up losing a fortune, while something knocked together in a fortnight by a rival makes a packet. Those of us without the artistic “calling” can see why (artistic types seem to have a tendency to budget for the maximum possible revenue instead of the most likely, for example, and I’ve noticed that the emphasis is always on maximising revenue, not limiting expenditure; see “not having a clue about money”… and socialist governments), but to those who do, and clearly can’t, the labour theory of value must seem very attractive.

    I certainly wouldn’t dismiss Carr’s “perceived social liberalism of the Left” either. That plays a huge part, I think.

    Incidentally, from that paper, ain’t this the truth?

    I don’t think it has quite dawned on anybody yet (least of all the Conservative Party) that the ‘right’ are no longer the establishment. The establishment is now, quite firmly, liberal-left of centre.

  • Brad

    Along the lines of “lottery winning” I see such successful actors as a subset of a larger population – those who have wealth and influence but didn’t have to labor all that hard to get it. People who are second, third generation money today, tend to be Statist, mostly soft left. From the “self made” end of the pool musicians and actors are as well. On the other hand athletes, by and large, are Statist right.

    What it comes down to is those who have wealth and influence, who didn’t ever truly earn, have a distorted view of the world. Those who never have to know how equity is produced in a world of scarce resources tend to the progressive left where scarcity doesn’t exist. Therefore privation (for a relatively small group) is imagined as a man made phenomenon – for the sheer sport of the thing – instead of the reality of freely associated collective labor coupled with free markets bringing the vast majority out of subsistence.

    The middle class know all about how equity is produced, and how striving in a world of scarcity is accomplished. Our “noble” class and the lower class don’t. The middle class SHOULD have known not to let the upper and lower classes cow them, but they didn’t. I think now they are finally waking up to reality, a bit too late.

  • Vinegar Joe

    I’ve always felt that most “entertainers” tend to be a lot like chihuahuas: real jittery and not too bright.

  • It’s about class envy and magic.

    Actors need to be popular to earn a living. The actor who, despite his fame and fortune, still cares about the little guy is not resented as much as the “greedy” executive who works for a living and lacks the fame, and hence doesn’t get to share his ideas on TV unless he gets famous (like Buffett and Gates).

    People are enamored by the fame of celebrities and want to know more about them. They don’t care about the VP for Acme, except when the media lets them know that the “greedy bastard” makes 50 times their income.

    So, while they deposit the six or seven figure checks with one hand, they distract their fans with the other, making gestures of magnanimity. It’s as simple as that.

    “Look, he wants to help out the fruit pickers! He wants to help the homeless! He wants to save the polar bears! We don’t begrudge him his wealth, cause he’s not like the bad rich people. Plus, he’s famous, and I wish I could be famous like him. I’m sure I’d be a swell guy, too, if I were a star!”

  • Gaunius

    Perhaps the best explanation is that as a group they are really not very bright.

    And to quote Mark Twain–“It is not what you don’t know that hurts you. It’s what you know that isn’t true.”

  • jsallison

    Mebbe someone can convince dear old Jeremy to set the example and become Soylent Green. Live the recycle.

  • The wonderful G. K. Chesterton had these types sussed 85 years ago:

    Poets and such persons talk about the public as if it were some enormous and abnormal monster-a huge hybrid between the cow they milk and the dragon that drinks their blood.

  • Verity

    Mike – 6:10 pm. Agreed.

  • Eric

    What it comes down to is those who have wealth and influence, who didn’t ever truly earn, have a distorted view of the world.

    I think that’s overly cynical. Actors work very hard, and like any contractor they work twice as hard when they don’t have a gig lined up. It’s just that the business is structured in such a way that most actors struggle to pay the bills, while a very small number is rich and famous. And those very small number were either born into an acting “dynasty” or went from grinding poverty to fabulous riches virtually overnight because of a lucky break.

    They met a producer at a club before he became successful and hit the jackpot on his breakout film, or they went to acting school with somebody who ended up making it big and were able to cash in a favor. Or maybe they just had the right “look” for a project that ended up being wildly successful. They know lots of beautiful people who are objectively just as skilled at acting but never got the lucky break. The unlucky ones ended up waiting tables for fifteen years before giving up and selling insurance.

    So people in that business who hit the jackpot get the idea everybody becomes successful as a result of a lucky break, because everybody they know did (or so they convince themselves, anyway). If that’s your outlook, it’s a pretty short mental step to believing the rest of society should share in your largess. I’ll bet you’d see the same outlook develop in a city full of lottery winners.

  • Wow. Interesting perspectives, but I think some of you are being a bit harsh.

    I know a lot of actors. I am sympathetic with the business, as I have been both in front of and behind the camera, as well as on stage and up in the rafters lighting it for others.

    Acting, as a profession is very difficult work. It takes preparation, memorization, concentration, and a sixth sense of environmental awareness to be a good actor. The discipline of it is as rigorous as any other profession. If you dont believe me, try your hand at a silly Gilbert & Sullivan play and tell me otherwise.

    That being said, acting is the manifestation of unreality… it is the breaking of rules, the exceeding of boundaries, and feeds on the core desire for the soul to be free. One cant be very free by saying, ‘you know, I think I will put off my fun career because I have a duty to enlist and serve my country for 4 years.’

    The same attributes which obtain for actors what they most desire (the accolades of their audience and peers) tend to be diametrically opposed to conservative instincts. This is a rather sweeping generalization, but fits with most of the people I know in the business.

    I know very few actors who ‘arent all that bright.’ Most have a keen intellect, an absorptive mind, and a sensitive nature. It is sometimes maddening that they do not come to the same political conclusions as us, but, that is the nature of the culture.

  • Verity

    I think so many of these self-regarding people believe they’re supremely talented and gifted above other people and because of their very special nature, have “insight”.

    They apparently think their “insight” overrides the people serving in emergency wards trying to save people who were victims of individuals who felt they were somehow special and had special insights … like serial killers and rapists.

    I think this is luvvies and “artists”, who just feel so very, very special and dear. In my experience, ballet dancers don’t give a crap about social issues. Which makes me love them all the more.

  • Nuke Gray

    I think it is just guilt. Not many Christians have an esoteric viewpoint, but I accept that Karma works- therefore a good-looking person has deserved their good looks. Others would think it was just chance. Arnie Schwazzennegger knows that he worked hard in this life for his body, so he is a Republican, not a populist Democrat. This is another reason why libertarians, if they have religious beliefs, should look into Karma, and espouse it as a remedy against government interference in society. I have not heard of Bollywood actors making political claims- do we just not hear them, or do people there not think that good looks should be ‘fairly’ distributed by a wise government?

  • Isn’t this just perfectly contemptible? Lassoing an entire section of the population together according to their chosen profession and dragging them over some bumpy psycho-babble to account for the origin of opinions you presume upon them – and all as if they have not a mind of their own.

    Just about the last person I came very close to hitting because of his outrageous verbal farts was someone I worked briefly with at an amateur acting club. He was an engineering graduate – but more importantly, a c*nt.

  • Laird

    I think you’re all being far too kind. Most professional actors simply aren’t very bright (remember, these are people whose whole career consists of plausibly mouthing words written by someone else), and even those who are are not well educated (very few even attended college, let alone graduating; most attended special Arts high schools populated exclusively by similar preening peacocks). And they’re perpetual adolescents, regardless of chronological age. Peter Pan syndrome. What else would you expect from them?

    Have you ever attended the Sundance Film Festival or something similar? Sit in a theater or reception with a large group of these people. The IQ drain is breathtaking.

  • Valerie

    Because they are emotive dreamers.

  • Mike has a point, Laird.

  • Chuckles

    Dumber than a box of rocks.

  • Sam Duncan

    Mike does have a point. Hence all the “tend to”s and “generally”s. Of course they have minds of their own, and there are certainly conservative and libertarian artists. But the fact remains that they seem to be the exception, that the “creative” professions appear to be more socialistic in outlook than the general population, and there must be a reason for that.

  • Paul

    There’s a psychological factor to it,people conform around their group identities. As a profession it is seen as left wing so in order to fit in with their peers, group members will take on the assumed views of the group. Its the same reason why academics are proportionally more likely to be left wing as well.

  • Mike does have a point.

    No, not really. In fact I wonder if he actually read the whole article as it states not all members of the acting profession think the same thing.

    If Mike thinks it is factually incorrect to claim actors appear to be more prone to leftist declaiming than the general public, then he should say so (good luck with that).

    However his point appears to be that it is despicable to even make such claims, even thiough he does not actually address the issue of “are the claims factually correct?”… i.e. perhaps he finds the notion itself “politically incorrect”.

    So no, not much of a point.

  • Yes, I was mostly taking issue with this from Laird:

    Most professional actors simply aren’t very bright (remember, these are people whose whole career consists of plausibly mouthing words written by someone else),

    This would imply that any of us could be good actors, and it is simply not true. Anyone has to have intelligence to perform well at any task, be it scientific research, car racing or acting.

    and even those who are are not well educated (very few even attended college, let alone graduating; most attended special Arts high schools populated exclusively by similar preening peacocks)

    Please don’t start me on modern higher education and its worth.

  • My last comment was following Sam Duncan’s.

    Perry, I read Mike’s comment as addressing not the post itself, but rather the majority of comments that followed it (including my own). In that light he does have a point, IMO.

  • alecm


    Having gotten to know most of the Samizdatistas over the past few years – and yet still being something of an outsider – I think the problem is that most “normal” people do not think about politics.

    At best, they think about wants, dreams, and ideals; and they don’t really consider stuff like impacts, consequences and side-effects.

    I suspect the big problem comes from not considering themselves to be part of the bigger picture – or else they have some hangup that permits them to say “because I do not want [X] then other people will obviously be happy to do without [X]”, so:

    * “Where does the bailout money come from?” – “other (rich) people”

    * “Who’s paying for government benefits?” – “other (rich) people”

    * “If overpopulation (of other people) is a problem, how do we get (other people) to stop breeding?”

    I’ve heard folk say “the rich should pay more taxes” – at which point I explain that that’s what a flat percentage means, and what they actually mean is “the rich should pay _disproportionately_ more taxes”.

    Each time it’s clear that nobody’s ever pointed that out to them before; and then you ask them to explain whether disproportionate taxation is “fair” – which can be very amusing, especially when you ask them how rich they actually are, and then dig into that a bit.

    So: It’s not actors, it’s everybody; and it’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because (regrettably) they’re “normal”. They have other interests, they have starry-eyed ideals, they have naïveté, they think they can fix things by poking them and that they “can use their power, for good!”

    And they mostly don’t consider much beyond that.

  • Maureen

    People are intelligent in different ways about different things, and they have wisdom and common sense in different ways about different things.

    In their sphere, a lot of actors are very clever, very shrewd, and very wise. Outside their sphere, not so much.

    The same is true of pretty much everybody. You don’t meet people who are totally stupid on every conceivable topic, and you don’t meet people who are totally genius on every topic. (Some people come close one way or the other, though.) As with everything else in life, you have to pick out what’s useful and deal with the rest.

  • Sam Duncan

    Just to be clear, I concur with Alisa. It’s about tendencies and trends, not condemning them as “all the same”.

    I think alecm makes a good point, too. But still, the “creative” professions seem to have more than their fair share of Leftists. Is it perhaps because they’re even less concerned with side effects and unintended consequences than the general population? Or even more naïve? Or both?

    I still think the social liberalism of the mid-20th Century Left has more to do with it than we’re admitting.

  • “If Mike thinks it is factually incorrect to claim actors appear to be more prone to leftist declaiming than the general public, then he should say so.”

    What then, did I write at 05/27: 6.10pm?

    “I read Mike’s comment as addressing not the post itself, but rather the majority of comments that followed it (including my own).”

    This. Thank you Alisa.

  • Laird

    Alisa, I never said (or even implied) that most of us could be good actors. Of course acting is a skill, and requires work and practice as well as innate talent. But what it doesn’t seem to require is a high level of intelligence (as that term is generally understood, which is why I consider comments such as Maureen’s to be pure bollocks: to say that there are “different forms of intelligence” is to redefine that word into politically correct meaninglessness). As a group, actors simply aren’t pulling up the IQ curve.

    And of course there are exceptions; there always are. But what we’re talking about here is the vast majority of the people who choose to go into that profession. Most don’t have much formal education, which is just fine (honing their craft on the boards is probably more important to becoming a good actor than taking English Lit courses), but it does not give them any grounding in economics, or science, or human psychology, or any of the non-theatrical matters upon which they presume to offer ignorant opinions to a fawning public. I stand by my statement.

    And so, no, Mike doesn’t have a point. What Perry said.

  • Laird

    Smitebot seems to have me on a short leash lately. Perhaps it will release my latest comment sometime.

  • Midwesterner

    Actors who open their mouths about political topics on MSM are consistently idiots. They are either of the kind of idiots who’s opinions receive a warm reception from their MSM hosts or they are the kind of idiots of who just killed their career. Occasionally actors like Jon Voight knowingly ended their careers by ‘coming out’ politically, but smart, thoughtful actors have generally kept their mouth shut and cashed the checks.

    This is changing. The MSM critics no longer are meaningful harbingers of box office receipts. Nobody outside the echo chamber gives a pile of warm dog shit what the New York Times thinks is an ‘important’ or ‘must see’ work. Because of Twitter, etc, movies are now sometimes condemned to total failure before the first paying audience gets back to their cars. On the other hand, success can be just as abrupt.

    Studios/investors will be compelled to respond to this and products will/are more closely reflecting the opinions of the intended audience rather than of the elites. Actors (many of whom are very sharp people) will be able to speak their mind without MSM inflicted career consequences.

  • Tedd

    I’m glad Sam brought up the labour theory of value. I really think that’s an important point. I haven’t known many actors, but I’ve known quite a few artists of other kinds and I’ve found belief in the labour theory of value to be very high among them.

    I suspect that artists have a sense that there is some aspect of value that’s not captured by economic value. Excellent symphony orchestras struggle to stay afloat while pathetic pop musicians become rich. The other is that for every wealthy or even comfortable artist there are many more who are struggling or poor. For that great majority that never achieves success, the choice would seem to be to either believe that you’re not very good (which some no doubt do) or to believe that the reward system of society is inherently unfair.

    One might think that those lucky few who become famous enough to be quoted in the media would have the reverse incentive: the market reinforcing their sense of self-worth. But, as others have already pointed out, what works against that is the sub-culture they developed in and, perhaps, recognition that their own success may not be entirely “fair,” in an artistic sense.

  • Roue le Jour

    The key point about entertainers is, they become successful because people like them, their technical ability is largely irrelevant. When your income is completely dependent on popular whim, you watch what you say. To be right wing is popularly perceived as being selfish, which would be a Bad Thing.

  • Roue le Jour

    The key point about entertainers is, they become successful because people like them, their technical ability is largely irrelevant. When your income is completely dependent on popular whim, you watch what you say. To be right wing is popularly perceived as being selfish, which would be a Bad Thing.

  • I happen to actually like the NYT film-review section a lot, and always check it out before seeing a movie. It does not at all mean that I necessarily will go and see what they deem important or must-see – or that I will avoid seeing something they dissed. In their reviews they give detailed analyzes of films, while openly disclosing their biases (political or artistic) – which is very helpful in getting a good idea on what I am about to see. For example, The Ghost Writer was their Critics Pick, and I had a feeling that it was going to be a pretentious piece of crap. Went to see it anyway for lack of an alternative, was not disappointed (low expectations), and had a good laugh to boot. OTOH, I was going to see Robin Hood regardless of the review, but they did point out some weaknesses in the film, and they were right. So again, saved me some disappointment.

  • Great post, and so many great comments I really have nothing to add of substance, other than to say that actors by their nature want to be loved by the masses, and what better way of doing that than by becoming an advocate for the masses and the causes they presume the masses support?

    Now when you move into the arena of support for the very hard far left, such as communist regimes, there’s the further point that success there is measured not by popularity or by success at the box office, but by patronage. An actor, writer, playwright, artist, etc., who is supported by the state does not necessarily have to believe he might be promoting state propaganda, he can delude himself into thinking he is a true visionary who has just earned the recognition he so rightly deserves.

  • RemoWilliams

    A big part of it is guilt over wealth and success, but I think more of has to do with the nature of the people in the film industry.

    I read this mystery once where the main character had to bodyguard this movie actor who was noted for doing crazy stunts and bizarre behavior. When asked about it, the actor gave the private investigator a classic song and dance about “how nobody can possibly understand the tortured soul of an artist.

    At which point, the P.I. told him that he was full of shit.

    The Actor grinned, dropped the act and told the truth. He didn’t really know why he acted so crazy. His best guess was that it was all that was left.

    “Most people do things so that they can be rich or famous or score with hot women. Shit, I am rich, I am famous and I score with hot women.”

    For the modern celebrity, a pet cause or crusade fills the “What’s left” hole nicely.

    On top of that is fact that the entertainment business attracts more than it’s share of narcissists (Who else would feel the need to be center stage). Well, what does a narcissist do when everybody tells him or her that they’re wonderful and talented 24 hours a day?

    Once again, you have the pet cause or crusade. This way they can demonstrate that they’re not just talented and wonderful, they’re also kind and generous and smart and spiritual.

    Moments like this, I miss Paul Newman. It was years before I realized that the proceeds from his popcorn, salad dressing and other stuff went to his charity.

    That guy didn’t ask for handouts. Instead, he created a great product, donated the profits and kept the whole thing to a minimum of “ME”.

    Remo Williams,
    The Master of Sinanju.

  • Newman was indeed a class act.

  • Yeah, Newman put his money where his mouth was, and a lot of time as well. And, even though I hate Robert Redford’s politics, I have to say he has made one great and lasting contribution to film through the Sundance Film Festival. Even the worse of them are capable of doing good things, even guys like Sean Penn, who helped clear the way for a Kentucky family to adopt a little Haitian child. Those are the exceptions though.

  • IIRC, Newman’s mouth wasn’t anywhere much at all – everything he did was done quietly. But then, for his generation in HW it was not an accepted practice to compulsively express an opinion on current events. Actors mostly confined themselves to doing their job (acting), while also trying to have as good a time as they could get away with – which is really what we all are supposed to be doing anyway. Things have changed.

  • ian

    The fact that actors are often quoted in the press saying silly things, says nothing at all about the collective wisdom or otherwise of the profession. The media quote them and seek their views because they believe – probably correctly, that their readers equate fame with importance. Some of the profession no doubt believe that themselves, others are simply using the platform offered to push their views.

    Having said that of course it is the same media that created this belief in the first place, but that is another story.