When Emilie was very young, she saw a picture of a mime and asked Greg what it was. He explained that there are certain persons in the world who paint their faces white, wear funny clothes, and hang around in public parks, pretending to be inside invisible boxes and demanding that innocent passers-by give them money, all while maintaining an eerie silence. This explanation gave Emilie a fear of mimes that lasted some years. Happily, her psyche was never further traumatized by any in-the-flesh meetings with actual mimes, but the thought of them still makes her uneasy.
I am not really afraid of mimes, though I’d just as soon they’d leave me alone. I am afraid of actors. Here we have people who are so adept at faking their emotions and principles that they do it for a living. They are often handsomer than the average person, which amplifies their ability to influence others, get away with misbehavior, and generally make mischief. They are used to people looking at them, costuming them, admiring them, hitting on them, asking them deeply personal questions, and generally paying them an inordinate amount of attention. They get paid a lot of money. While performing, they generally appear smarter than they are, because the words they are speaking have been given to them by writers. Their speeches and actions are ornamented by a background of beautiful orchestral music written by gifted composers. They experience a stimulating variety of scene and action—car chases, shoot-outs, fist-fights, Edwardian house parties, highland battles, light-saber duels, and the like. Severe sleep deprivation is an accepted condition of their job. The prevailing philosophy over their profession requires them to enter into the heart and mind of a character, to “become” the character, as it were, even if their character is psychotic; and they are expected to “bond” with their costars, with whom they are sequestered in an artificial, stylized environment, which in itself contributes to a temporary false intimacy. And once the project is wrapped up, they go home to whatever friends or family they may have acquired or retained over the course of their careers, and resume interaction with society at large. Is it any wonder that these people create their own drama in their personal lives, contriving their own car chases and fights and emotional meltdowns? Folks, this is scary.
Of course, I am over-generalizing. I’m talking about popular film actors—those performers whose personal lives get fragmented into little factoids which cast their glare onto my eyeballs from the Yahoo! screen every time I log on. Am I unfairly characterizing an entire group based on the actions of a conspicuous few? Well, I certainly do not mean to say that all actors are narcissists, or that none of them have stable emotions or healthy relationships. There do seem to be some exceptions, whom we don’t often notice for the very reason that they stay out of the headlines. But the exceptions are sadly few, as the Hollywood community itself seems to recognize. It’s pathetic, really, how eager the celebrity magazines are to showcase actors who show the slightest indication of being well-adjusted human beings (Wow! Married to the same woman for three years in a row! And never caught with illegal drugs! What a guy!). Even the many-times-married, in-and-out-of-rehab celebrities receive an odd sort of reverence during their clean-and-sober bouts, as if a having a record of colossal mistakes meant that a person had necessarily achieved a deep wisdom, worthy of being imparted to others through an article in People magazine.
I don’t really think that the profession of acting in itself makes people into warped human beings. There is a particular intelligence that empowers a person to convincingly play a role, just as there is another that empowers a writer to manipulate words. Both talents are capable of stirring the emotions and intellect, and in and of themselves are worthy of praise. Narcissism may be an occupational hazard for actors, just as morbid introspection may be one for writers; neither one has to cripple the spirit. No, it is the tenor of society at large, the cult of the personality, if you will, which has enabled such spiritual sickness, the way a warm, dark, wet environment enables black mold.
I think the whole thing is too sad for words.