When actors are left unscripted


By Gary Abernathy - gabernathy@civitasmedia.com



One wonders, at what point during Acting College are pupils taught that part of their job is to share their political opinions with the world?

Sadly, many of us who are not angry liberals no longer watch Hollywood award shows, because we know it will amount to two or three hours of celebrities bashing anyone who does not share their uniquely uninformed and homogenous political views. But even in not watching, we still cannot be entirely spared from the carnage since their remarks are rebroadcast on various platforms over the next 24 to 48 hours.

As everyone knows, there is only one political philosophy permitted in Hollywood, and it is somewhere to the left of Anarchists. Of late – in addition to the predictable award show blatherfests – we have been treated to Internet videos featuring celebrities known and barely known instructing members of the Electoral College how to vote, or Congress how to act in regard to Donald Trump.

It has long been acknowledged that as a group, actors are not exactly the sharpest tacks in any box. A theory has long existed that particularly great actors are, well, particularly great because they are themselves empty vessels (not much going on upstairs), and that emptiness uniquely positions them to fill the void with the personality or characteristics of others, as supplied to them by writers and directors.

The result are performances where actors have assumed the mannerisms, inflections and behavior of entirely different people in such convincing fashion that other people who are imbued with the usual rations of personality and intelligence marvel at the ability of our greatest actors to transform themselves so completely into someone else. I subscribe to this theory.

Sometimes, actors adopt a character whom we shall call their “real” selves, which in fact are no more real than the characters they are paid to perform on stage or on screen, but which are passable substitutes for real people.

In other words, Meryl Streep, for example, has adopted a character whom she calls “Meryl Streep,” and she is able to play that part when she is not submerged in another fictionalized character of the type for which she has won many awards.

So on Sunday night, “Meryl Streep” took to the stage to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and, naturally, decided to share her political opinions with the world.

I have mentioned this before, but the best answer ever given by a celebrity when asked a political question was by the late, great Elvis Presley, of course, when asked, in 1972 – at the height of Vietnam war protests – his opinion of war protesters and whether, if he was eligible, he would allow himself to be drafted.

Elvis, who had in fact been drafted in 1957 and who had done two years in the Army from 1958-60, replied, “I’d just sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself, ‘cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say.”

PERFECT!

“I’d just sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself, ‘cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say” should be the stock answer of every famous actor and singer. And – bonus – it’s easy to memorize.

What do you think about Donald Trump?

“I’d just sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself, ‘cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say.”

What do you think about Hillary Clinton?

“I’d just sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself, ‘cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say.”

What do you think about global warming?

“I’d just sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself, ‘cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say.”

Etcetera, etcetera. What a wonderful world it would be.

(I will add that it is worth remembering that Elvis was not regarded as a great actor, and it may be that it follows my hypothesis that he was perhaps just a little too intelligent.)

Am I suggesting that celebrities should forego their right of free speech and not engage in the political process?

Uh…. Yes.

If they want to contribute money, they should contribute money. What else… Oh, they should vote, of course. Other than that, they should stay out of it. Why? Because they’re just entertainers. People love them for being entertainers, not for their political views. When they are unscripted and speak for themselves, the result is typically embarrassing for the shallowness it reveals.

You would think that those with the most to lose financially – studios, producers, theater chains – would strongly encourage actors to shut up about politics, since every time they open their mouths they alienate half their potential audience.

Jokes about politics and government at award ceremonies are one thing, a tradition that goes back to Bob Hope hosting the Oscars (most of the time) beginning in the 1940s through the 1970s. But the jokes came from the host, and a conscious effort was made to make sure the zingers hit all targets equally. For the most part, attendees and viewers were spared the self-righteous, sanctimonious, preachy, holier-than-thou lectures to which we are all subjected today.

What a wonderful world it would be to once again be able to turn on an Oscar telecast, an Emmy awards show, a Golden Globes ceremony, a Grammy Awards broadcast, and know that for the next two or three hours we will be able to watch film clips or hear sound bites and have a winner declared, and worry only about whether the winner will remember to thank his or her mother or father or aunt or uncle or producer or director.

Instead, we watch, if we watch, and dread the moment when the winners or presenters are compelled to share what they think about the horrible state of the political world and all the injustices of society, just before they climb into their limousines for the short ride home to their nearest mansion on the highest hill, which they find because, thankfully, their chauffer knows the way.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

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By Gary Abernathy

gabernathy@civitasmedia.com