Following on from my recent series of Spielberg Top 10 blogs, I have decided to write some pieces on perceptions and pre-conceived ideas that the general public has on people in the spotlight, from hero worship to hatred. Is it rational to not watch a film just because Jack Black is in it, or do you wear your rose tinted glasses when ever news breaks of a new Julia Roberts film? Does it go further than that, where does fantasy and reality end?
Before I go any further, I am not a Psychologist and everything that follows will be merely my opinion. Secondly, I have not really ever met any famous people, I met Benedict Wong (Wong in Dr Strange) at Em-Con last year, he was a decent bloke, from Salford no less……..I’m sure he kept the photo. I certainly don’t know any famous people personally so my opinion of any of them is based purely on their public persona or the impressions I have built up on them through their work or interviews etc.
Now take my friend Benedict for example. He was at a fan convention in Nottingham, signing autographs and taking selfies (for a small charge of course), but basically he was being paid to be nice and for my two minute chat with him and the photo he took with me and my son, he seemed a perfectly normal bloke, who just happened to have what is perceived as a glamourous and exciting job. Now for all I know when I walked away, he may have turned to his agent and said “don’t let anyone like that loser come near me again, bloody Mancunians thinking they know me….” etc. I’m sure he didn’t, but how do I know?
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a bit of a fan of Steven Spielberg, I think the guy is the Greatest Living Film Director, and possibly the greatest ever, if reading this, you don’t need to agree with that, it is a subjective opinion. I have not, sadly ever had the opportunity to meet Mr Spielberg, and quite frankly, I’m 99% sure that I never will. Spielberg makes films that have connected with me, they have comforted me when feeling low, they have excited me and made me marvel at the sheer audacity and wonder of them. There is a tendency to think therefore, we must like the same things, ergo, I reckon we’d get on really well if we met for dinner. Now before anyone starts filing restraining orders, the truth is he is just doing a job, when he finishes his work for that day, he goes home to his wife and family, they may even stop on the way for Pukka Pie and Chips because they can’t be bothered to cook that night. Does he ever wake up on a Saturday and lounge around in his joggers watching Saturday kitchen whilst aimlessly scrolling through Twitter (basically my Saturday mornings)? Ok he probably doesn’t but neither is he likely to be being carried round on a velvet throne waiting for today’s fresh catch of the day to be served to him on a silver platter by harp playing cherubs.
No matter how much some fans would like to think it, he cannot walk on water. Here’s the thing, whenever you read an interview from anyone who has ever worked with Steven Spielberg they all gush about how wonderful and generous he is as a man, a director and an overall human being. You could argue, who in Hollywood would not want to work on the next Steven Spielberg film, they’re hardly going to bad mouth him are they? But overall his public persona means we have no reason to doubt that he is in fact an all round decent guy, but who reading this can honestly know for sure?
I try not to live my life cynically, but we live in a Social Media driven world these days where it appears everyone is fair game for shots to be aimed at. There is always someone willing to sling the mud, anonymous keyboard warriors who chase the likes, the ticks, the retweets. Why say nice things about somebody who is already venerated globally, that’s not interesting? Let’s find some dirt on them, and if we can’t do that, well we shall make it up, and with each passing day we are faced with questions around what is true about individuals, individuals who apparently gave up their right to any kind of private life the moment they decided to display their talent to the World. I’m sure they all do normal things
Tom Cruise is maybe as reviled as he is revered. Everyone has an opinion on him, from ultra focussed professional, to crazy religious nut. The truth is only a handful of people will really know the real Tom, but fans and detractors will claim they do know him, based on the work he presents and the public persona he has put out to the World. You hear it quite often on Internet forums “Oh Tom Cruise is proper weird”, oh, know him personally do you? The flip side to this, is that there will be fans of Mr Cruise who will not have a bad word said about him.
Famous people often don’t help themselves here, occasionally making ill-advised comments or declaring undying love for someone, using a talk show sofa as a trampoline to emphasise ones love. Granted this is not normal behaviour, but how much is artificial, how much is rehearsed, we are not at liberty to know. Cruise is a big enough star to be able to deal with flack that will have come from what at the time was probably a calculated risky move, he has a loyal fanbase who would pretty much forgive him anything.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that all “stars” are clean as a whistle, they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t have flaws, but the fact is we don’t know them personally and probably never will, so should we have them on these unreasonable pedestals, would the reality only disappoint us?
Many years ago I read an interview with Harrison Ford who had just been voted “World’s Sexiest Man” by a magazine. He was asked by the interviewer how he felt about that. Ford responded by saying that it meant nothing, as none of the people who voted for him knew him personally and if they did they probably wouldn’t find him particularly sexy at all. Harrison Ford has a reputation for being a bit of a grumpy old man, how about the fact that he might just be an incredibly guarded, private man, who sees his profession as a job as opposed to someone who expects the world to worship at his feet. He actually might be the life and soul of the party, we will probably never know, in fact the only thing we know about Ford for sure is that he is pretty bad at landing planes.
When evidence is clearly more than idle internet gossip, where do you as the consumer draw the line? In the last few years, and not before time, the #Metoo movement has moved into the public arena, some established stars with huge followings have pretty much seen their careers ended (and rightly so) as a result of allegations. Do we as the public have to make a stand against this by not watching a film, that’s success or access to us is largely down to money that Harvey Weinstein invested? Do we throw our copies of American Beauty into the bin because Kevin Spacey starred, or do we appreciate that thousands of good people put their hearts and souls into making that film, and Spacey was just a small element of it.
The 21st Century so far with the birth of social media and reality TV has led to enough manipulation of the psyche to make one imagine that George Orwell is still operating things from a distance as an omnipotent puppet master. Reality TV is designed primarily to be as far away from reality as possible, whilst creating the illusion that it is entirely attainable for the average person. Win X-Factor and you will have a pop career that will make you a global superstar with the longevity of the Beatles, when in reality the fame in most cases lasts slightly less than Andy Warhol will have predicted. Big Brother was initially realised as a social experiment, now a freak show designed to have 10 strangers argue and come to blows in an unescapable TV set, nobody wants to see people getting along.
Social Media is a different animal itself. People need to keep very much at arms length, what is reality and what is being shown as the norm. I am a regular Twitter user, and through it I have had many fantastic and inspiring discussions about movies and the power and the sense of wellbeing that movies and cinema bring to these people. Bizarrely I am quite a private person and the majority of people I interact regularly with on Twitter I don’t know personally and with respect, I have no real desire to meet and get to know personally. There are obviously some people on Social Media that I don’t fully understand, like the guy who hated ALL of the Marvel movies but had seen every one of them (you would have thought they would get the point after the first few) or the guy who saw The Last Jedi 10 times just to be sure he hated it as much as he thought he did. I’m glad to say I don’t have the time, energy or desire to spend that much time and money on things that didn’t agree with me, which is probably one of the reasons why I only have about 400 followers on Twitter despite over 10 years of hilarious and knowledgable tweeting (tsk tsk).
That’s the whole point though, nobody anymore wants to hear nice things, or the things that you enjoy, where is the fun in that? Get out there and be the bigger person, what the world needs more of now, is some guys refusing to watch an all female Ghostbusters (brilliant by the way) because it ruined their childhood, but then telling their Twitter followers why it ruined their childhood. They don’t need to actually watch the film to state that opinion, it’s an all female Ghostbusters, it’s bound to be rubbish, women aren’t funny, they certainly can’t catch ghosts………….
I am writing this piece a couple of weeks after it was announced that Steven Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story has (alongside many other films) been delayed until at least December 2021 due to the ongoing impacts of COVID 19. Now this is a film I am obviously extremely excited about, one of my favourite musicals being directed by my favourite director, so the delay is a disappointing but to be fair understandable setback. This is a film, however that is designed almost by its very inception, to be destroyed on social media before anyone has even seen a trailer. I am big enough and long enough in the tooth to admit if the film, when I eventually see it, doesn’t land, I will say so, but we live in a world where even if it is the greatest film ever made there will be naysayers who probably won’t even watch it but hate it anyway. I’m not one of those who feel Spielberg can’t do any wrong, 1941 anyone, but I will at least reserve judgment until I’ve seen it.
Which brings me full circle to this idea of hero worship. If I was ever fortunate enough to meet Mr Spielberg, I think I would say thank you. That thank you would be for the hours of entertainment he has provided through his imagination and skills as film maker. I am a fan, I’ve described myself, as a devoted Spielbergian, but he is not a hero. He is a man who is very, very talented at what he does, but he’s not physically saving lives, he is trying to make the World a slightly happier place by putting his abilities to good use. He, along with the majority of celebrities (I like to think) have what is seen as an unusual profession but deep down are normal people.
I remember last year returning home from watching Avengers Endgame with my son, it was a Sunday and we sat down to our weekly Sunday roast dinner, and my son asked me “hey, do you think Robert Downey Jnr is sat having a Sunday roast with his family?” My answer was “Well, why would he not be?” He is by all sense and purpose a family man who probably when not filming has a fair bit of time on his hands so why would they not do the “normal” things in life.
Maybe it’s time for us all to take a step back and just enjoy the art, just appreciate that for those 2 hours they are attempting to entertain. That in itself is a gift and I’m truly grateful for it. If I was to ever meet Mr Spielberg that is what I would thank him for.
My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.
You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH
You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com