Sunday, August 06, 2006


I like Mel Gibson. I mean, as much as I can like someone I have never met but just observed acting on-screen. But it doesn't surprise me that he was caught doing something stupid. How bright can a guy be who's pounding drinks back for several hours and then hops in his Maserati (or whatever Mel drives)and cruises a leisurely 87 mph home? How smart can Mel be when he launches into some inane anti-Semitic tirade in public after he went through such scrutiny over his THE PASSION OF CHRIST movie, which some Jews found offensive?

It doesn't surprise me that he did something stupid for the simple reason that he is an actor; and actors are inherently stupid people. Alfred Hitchcock called them cattle and Otto Preminger said that the dumber they are the better.

I remember when Truman Capote was on the Tonight Show (hard to believe that Johnny Carson had people like Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Orson Welles on his show compared to the clap trap crap Leno serves up). And Capote made the statement that all actors are stupid.

"Oh c'mon, you can't mean all actors are stupid," Carson said with his usual Cornhusker naivete.

"Yes, I mean all actors are stupid," Truman said with his famous lisp.

"Well, what about Jill St. John?" Carson countered. "She supposedly has an IQ of 140."

"That's easy," Capote responded. "She's a terrible actress."

Think about what actors do. They do what children do, i.e. make believe, pretend, play act. A developed intellect hinders the smooth functioning of that child-like ability. Intelligence is the ability to make sense of reality, the Here and Now that one finds oneself in. But the greater one's comprehension of reality, the less one is able to imagine being someone else or in another place or time. The less developed the mind, the easier to pull off pretending to be, say, a pirate in the Caribbean. Reasoning and imagining are two different, even opposing, cognitive acts. Marlon Brando was such a dimwit that he could never remember his lines. During the filming of STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE they had to write his lines on the back of lampshades or hold cue cards up off camera. The great Lawrence Olivier was such a lame brain that he couldn't balance a checkbook.

Oh sure, actors like to think there is some "method" to what they do. Lee Strasberg made his name and fortune on the revolutionary but specious notion that actors had to think about acting in order to act, which is like saying a thoroughbred has to think about running before it runs. But all Mr. Strasberg really did was provide a fraudulent pretext for organizations like Circle In The Square to rip off some rich daddy in Kansas who is convinced that his daughter is the next Marilyn Monroe. So he shells out a small fortune to send his baby girl to New York to practice being a tree and in general publicly make a fool of herself in these acting classes. Some perennial young actor always comes out of nowhere, untrained, and is proclaimed a "natural in front of the camera." All that means is such an actor doesn't think enough about acting to act like he is acting. Such a lack of self-consciousness may be a gift but doesn't require a big IQ. Like Otto said, the dumber the better.

Naturally, actors resent being thought of as stupid. We are, after all, talking about the vainest group of people on the planet. And so they try to dispel the notion that they are dumb by acting like they are smart. Once actors have reached a certain level of fame, they feel like they are entitled to make pronouncements. Such pronouncements tend to be about politics because one doesn't need to know anything to make a political pronouncement, as opposed to, say, a scientific one. And so politics is famous actors' favorite thing to do when not acting or engaging in one of their usual narcissistic, hedonistic, conspicuously consuming activities. And when Hollywood actors make their grand statements, they usually make sure that they are wearing glasses, even if they don't need them, because they think that makes them look smart.

A host of organizations exist that encourage actors to make political statements because they find actors to be useful tools for whatever their particular cause might be. Politicians love having actors around for their "aura." The old saw is that politicians are nothing more than actors without the looks. And so we have ridiculous scenes of actors testifying on Capitol Hill about some issue that they are "championing." One such case that comes to mind is when Meryl Streep warned Congress about the dangers of Alar to children who ate apples, a concern that was later thoroughly debunked. In the meantime, all Meryl managed to do was cause a lot of apple farmers to go out of business and keep a lot of kids from eating one of the most nourishing things they could eat.

And the politics that Hollywood actors espouse are almost invariably liberal and Democratic. Funny how a group that so prides itself on its "artistic individuality" marches in such lockstep when it comes to politics. Is there a more egregious example of group think than Hollywood politics? Oh sure, Hollywood always points to Arnold, Bruce, Charleton and yes, Mel, as actors who have attained success even though they are not liberal Democrats. But that's it, that's the list! A handful of exceptions to the rule in an industry that employs thousands upon thousands.

Of course there are others in the biz who are not liberal but closet Republican; God help them if they ever speak out. Take the aspiring actress from Kansas. Imagine her at some party in the Hills and some jerk producer is doing the usual over-the-top Bush rant and rave. Like ninety per cent of twenty-somethings, she has no developed politic opinions or predilections. But being from Kansas she is probably accustomed to hearing the Republican view of things. But dare she say something along the lines of, "You know I don't think Bush is such a bad guy," "I think some good has come from the invasion of Iraq?" Sure she could say something like that, that is if she wanted to kill her career right there on the spot. Being a producer in Hollywood, the guy is more likely than Jewish. And since Jews along with blacks and unions are the bulwark of the liberal wing of the Democratic party, the guy is probably a liberal Democrat. And so our girl from Kansas might not be overly smart but she is smart enough to do like everyone else and nod her head as if the guy's blabber is fresh and insightful. She will learn to tow the line. Ten years from now, if she is unlucky enough to become famous, not only will she still be towing the line but the line will be hers, something she can pronounce to the world. The liberal line is all she has ever known. She has become indoctrinated, brainwashed, and washing her brain is easy since she is an actor and has only half a one to begin with. Such is how monolithic mind-lock has developed in Hollywood over the generations.

At some point, our Kansas starlet will decide that she wants to be taken seriously, wants to be thought of something other than that dumb Marilyn Monroe wannabe. And so she will don glasses and take every opportunity to expound upon current events, foreign affairs, economics, in short things which she knows little about. And some congressman from somewhere will decide that he'd like to cozy up to this starlet and will invite her to DC to give testimony on whatever the cause is which she has latched onto. Next she will hire a political advisor/consultant who will help her form her opinions about various matters of import. If Richard Dreyfus can do it, why can't she? Being dumb, she is incapable of forming her opinions all by herself. And before you know it, she will be invading our collective consciousness, not to act, but to spout off her opinions.

Why do we let these actors get away with it? We know that they aren't experts on anything, typically have less than a college education, aren't well read, and, to repeat, are dumb as dirt. We allow them onto our TV and movie theater screens, into our consciousness because we want them to entertain us. Not educate or edify us but entertain us. Their entertainment value is the only reason we suffer their existence. Coming home from work, after slaving away in the real world all day, who can stomach turning on the TV, expecting to be entertained, and instead see some pompous, condescending bonehead actor lecturing us, a la George Clooney. So smug and morally righteous! "Oh, shut up!" we yell at the TV screen. Actors take advantage of our generosity, our charity, our willingness to let them into our mind when they use the opportunity to pontificate about something that has nothing to do with why we granted them entry in the first place. They are abusing a privlege that we, their patrons, have granted them. Self-indulgence to an obscene extreme.

I don't gainsay an actor's right to political opinions, however uninformed those opinons might be, I just don't want to hear them, anymore than I want my cleaning lady telling me her opinion on Iraq. I remember when a reporter once asked Jimmy Stewart how he felt about the Vietnam War. He responded by saying that he was not a politician but an actor and he doubted that anyone would really care what his opinion was, so why waste the airtime. How classy, gracious, refreshing...and smart. Yep, they might be as rare as an albino crocodile, but a not-so-dumb actor is not a complete impossibility. Miracles do happen.


Anonymous said...

Amen! I've been railing against this for years. Just because some actor can memorize lines & emote on camera or a stage; he thinks(?) we want to hear his opinions on global warming or anything else that comes into his pea brain. And these political meatheads all say the same things on every subject. However, I must confess, I like 'em stupid & in tight jeans.

Anonymous said...

We need something like the old SPY magazine that kicks these celebrities in the ass, tells the truth that they and their PR machine try to cover up.

Anonymous said...

I dunno dude, I could just as easily criticize your theory on how only dumb actors are any good as being a short sighted and reductionist claim. Then go on to talk about how foolish you are to obsess over the fact that a bunch of people have political opinions (you could literally attack any celebrity, not just actors, this way). Your ideas aren't well measured, they just seem bitter. It's like the people that hate on Bono so much, but at least he's interested in what's going on in the world. You don't need to get mad because you're worried someone 'thinks they're better than you'.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above anonymous commenter. I could go on and on with proof that you are in fact wrong for a good percentage of actors and shouldn't smack a label upon every single one of them and how emotionally devouring the job is but the fact is that it is worthless since you will be stubborn and believe your way no matter what. However, if you were truly smart you'd do a bit more research personally and be more open before publishing your own thoughts and presenting them as facts. Just saying.

Joey Davis said...

No. He like so many other director, writers and producers are right and would know more than anyone how actors are.

Yes I do believe that most actors, athletes and singers are not smart. Let take Nicolas Cage the man made 250 million dollars in his carrer and is now broke, but he is not the only one, he is one of a very very long list of celebrities that do to their own stupidity and incompetence have been place in the poor house. Now once there its everyone else fault, but thier. Now you could argue that its the money managers fault it's his job to manage the money because the actor is not willing or able to do it or is it the Agents fault for not getting him more work if he had more work he wouldn't of had time to spend all his money or is it the Publicist fault maybe if she did more PR with Cage and his agent he could have got more work and made more money.

So you see, most of these people are not intelligent. They don't even have the intelligent or maturity to admit when it their fault for not being smart enough to manage the people who manage their life.

Nicolas Martin said...

I don't think the exchange about Jill St. John is reported accurately. As I remember it, Capote responded by saying about her, "Whoever said she can act?"

lee woo said...

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The Gronk said...

A very refreshing article.
You put into words the gut feeling I had!
Actors should stick to playing pretend and be grateful that people tolerate their childish ways.
Many thanks