Last weekend, The New York Times published an article about the death of Traditional Movie Stardom, blaming superhero movie franchises for its demise. Debatable, and worthy of a discussion in and of itself. But then, in the days that followed, we actually watched the fall of one of the biggest Traditional Movie Stars, Johnny Depp.
There was a time, not that long ago, when they were untouchable. Hollywood had set it up so that movie stars were protected by several barriers, and messes like the one unfolding between Johnny and Amber Heard were buried by Ray Donovans and Olivia Popes, “fixers” working at the behest of the studios protecting their investments – the movie stars. But as noted in the NYT, “When the character is more famous than the actor playing it, how does anybody develop the trademarks of a star? The prerogatives of the comic book are warping the properties of movie stardom”.
Is there a connection here? The writer’s definition of “character” is strictly limited in this case to the comics. But if you pull back and take a broader application of “character” and relate it, say, to reality television and the “characters” played by those who’ve risen on the reality medium, the effect on the Traditional Movie Star is undeniable. I may not like it for but an entire generation of pop culture consumer, Kanye West’s wife’s family has become celebrity royalty, with a (scripted) serialised television show every week narrating their personal lives, not unlike the serialised stories involving superheroes issued on a similar schedule, providing ceaseless self-generated content creation where being yourself, or a specific self-drawn version of yourself and not acting as someone else, is the new talent. That’s the new mask – not Batman, not Spider-Man, but just me, Me, Myself, and I. And the Tom Cruises and the Johnny Depps don’t know how to play that game.
Yours in gossip,