Don’t Judge an Actor by his Movie: The Many Faces of Celebs

By Ben Rogers, Contributing Writer

Celebrities with nationally recognizable faces do not experience average lives.

Not only are their daily activities unique, but also the ways they think about themselves and the actions they must make accordingly. In a study published in the Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, fifteen high profile celebrities in various fields were intensely interviewed about becoming and living with a recognizable face. From the study, a telling statement was revealed: “He or she divides into two identities by contriving a celebrity identity, a new self presentation in the ‘public sphere’.” They say it is like living with two personas—one fake and one real. This means that the personalities that we associate with celebrities on talk shows or interviews are not representative of their real selves. There is nothing wrong with enjoying these celebrities for their talents, but, if we are going to idolize or aspire to be like them, we need to consider their angle and motive. We probably do not know them like we think we do.

The relationship between the public and the celebrity is in the midst of a technology-inspired transition. Historically, famous people have always been idolized by the common man; as stated in a 2013 article on BBC news, “The most convincing theory suggests that prestige evolved as part of a package of psychological adaptations for cultural learning. It allowed our ancestors to recognize and reward individuals with superior skills and knowledge, and learn from them.” In today’s media, though, the demand on celebrities has become a much greater and more demanding role; they are no longer portrayed as masterful heroes but as real people with real problems. Why is this happening? Due to more efficient news outlets like smart phones and laptops, we of the public are getting closer and closer to the actual, everyday lives of celebrities—including the negative sides.

Famous people have difficulties in their personal lives just like everyone else; the public has just historically been shielded from these difficulties. In the 1930s, very few people knew the President of the United States was in a wheelchair because of the media’s coverage. Today’s media, though, has created a smaller gap between celebrities personal and public lives, and therefore revealed the “human” qualities of these celebrity idols. If it seems like there are more and more scandals these days, it may not be a result of celebrities being more scandalous, but simply more media attention to these types of details. Celebrities and their promoters are becoming more aware of this and reacting accordingly. For fear of negative publicity, celebrities must constantly be aware of their actions and outward expressions.

Some stars have learned to balance both their public and private life, but the media has made it extremely difficult to maintain personal anonymity. In an interview for Vanity Fair, suave movie star Daniel Craig, known for being the most recent James Bond, complains of having the inability to live a normal life away from his public persona. He expresses, “You talk to people in the movie business who have been doing this forty years, and they all say the difference is that, back in the day, you could go and have a drink in a bar, get drunk, have a good time, whatever, and no one would know about it. But now everyone’s got a camera.” He talks about having to always act “high class” because of his association with the Bond character.

I am not criticizing the media; they have reacted to more efficient media access by creating more media, but nevertheless, these truths point to the fact that Craig’s actions are molded by fear of potentially harmful publicity. So, if we are going to look to him as a role model, who is it that we are actually looking up to, James Bond or Daniel Craig?

If a celebrity is aware that their actions are going to be in the media, either through an interview for a magazine or on television, then it is not a real representation of the personality of the actual person, but a media-shaped persona that they know is being viewed as a highly accountable role model.

Of course there are still public personality differences and there is nothing wrong with liking these personas for what they are, but we must realize that these characters are more similar to your favorite Marvel comics character than to someone with whom you are open and trusting on a personal level—both designed to reflect the trends of society. I love Spiderman, but he is not someone I aspire to be or idolize for his character.