This week we learnt we’re all obsessed with stars, like it or not. I kind of agree, after all I did watch Jonathan Ross on Friday night just to see if Tom Cruise was a scientology weirdo (apparently he isn’t). So there the argument stands, even by the simple act of watching a chat show, we are all striving to see the authentic identity of the stars of screen.
For my dissertation I wrote about concepts of autonomy, the self and identity in the work of Jackson Pollock and stumbled across a lot of very interesting, if not very heavy going (not a beach read) social theory about identity. My basic understanding, from this research, about identity was we all strive to identify with each other through association or disassociation.
Basically if you’re a rock chick you’re going to relate to other rock chicks and you’ll identify them through their personal image or the things they say. Similarly, you can confirm your identity by recognising you are the opposite in the things you say and wear to lets say, a WAG. I’m sure someone more educated than me is screaming at this layman’s term description of authenticating your identity! Boo - I don’t care.
So how do you relate to someone you can’t ever really know because they are always being someone else – like a film star? Well, according to Richard Dyer we wish to believe their performance is based on real life experience – after all wouldn’t they take this film role because it in someway related to their own life? Watching a film, we know it’s a construct but we can’t help but admire (hope) the idea the star is a real person and in some way related to the character on screen – this is our access to relating to the star, to finding out their authentic self.
Have I lost you yet? Well, look at Erin Brockovich (2000) and see how Steven Soderbergh describes how he chose Julia Roberts because of her real life dual characteristics with Erin (DVD extras.) It’s not necessarily that Roberts is best performer for the role (there are, after all, many actresses who could have played this role and arguably an ‘unknown’ would have been better for the film) it’s that she is the best match for authenticity, based on what we already think of Roberts. That’s why Soderbergh kept her away from the real life Erin so that she didn’t mimic that individual, but rather that she was acting the ‘concept’ of that person. And this freedom meant that Robert’s own physicality could dominate the role (the way she walks, talks is not the same as the way Erin walks, talks etc). You are still aware of the fact this is Julia Roberts.
I really liked the film, even though I could never detach the fact I was watching Julia Roberts speaking, not “Erin Brockovich” (it’s the way she walks, way too distinctive, way too Pretty Woman!)