Celebrity Culture

I happened upon this recording of Jack Gleeson this morning. If you haven't watched/listened, it's well worth doing so.

I'm impressed that someone so young is able to step back from the celebrity circus machine and have a long hard thoughtful look at what is going on around him and to him. I've long been a fan of Vincent Price, but an ex-boyfriend of mine used to wonder about that. The ex claimed that actors whose careers are based upon playing evil characters were themselves evil. He was attempting to draw parallels between roleplaying (in games) and acting. Sure. In a RPG, people who habitually play evil characters aren't people I tend to want to hang out with. But when it comes to actors... I disagree with my ex. An actor's choice of roles in and of itself is no indication of who they are because they're being paid to play these roles. The choice isn't 100% theirs. Their choices depend upon the opportunities that are given to them in the first place. One works with what is on offer. Even among mundane jobs this is the case. (A majority of people don't work at anything like their dream job.) I can't imagine, after playing a role like Joffrey Baratheon that it would be easy to step into a broad variety of roles. I imagine what he'd be offered would be despicable character after despicable character because he did play that one so well. I can imagine that takes its toll after a while--particularly if that isn't all of who you are. It's hard to break free of that stigma. It's only wise to step back from it. Vincent Price was known to be a good, kind, intelligent, creative person with a wonderful sense of humor. Most of the roles he played weren't that at all. And I guess that's why I adore coming across people like Vincent Price and Jack Gleeson. It's a reminder that we're all human. That we're not always what we seem on the surface. I like seeing that, particularly in celebrities.

Also, the things Gleeson says about modern celebrity make sense to me. I wonder at our obsession with fame for fame's sake.[1] I hate it when people talk about an author's "Brand" as if who you are is some sort of commodity to be bought and sold. That isn't a healthy way to be. Our work is separate from who we are and should be. Creative works are a part of those who created them, but they aren't who they are in their entirety. Writers don't write characters whose points of view are 100% the same as their own. Creating characters isn't aspirational. To do so on a regular basis is considered lazy writing. It's boring reading and boring writing. The point is to try on different points of view and see the world through different sets of eyes. That way, we create a better understanding of what it is to be human beings. Honestly, I feel the same about acting.

Anyway, I hear Mr. Gleeson isn't planning on staying within the acting profession--at least for now. (He's young, and he's got his whole life ahead of him.) He's breaking away from Joffrey and is off to do Good Things. I say, more power to him.
[1] And I can't help thinking about Andy Warhol's claim that everyone will have at least 15 minutes of fame--something he predicted long before there was this thing called the internet--and what that really means.
One of my best friends is active in the local community theater scene and he regularly plays psychotic assholes (examples: Sterling in Mauritius, Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs, Titus) because, frankly, he's good at it. He's also one of the sweetest people I've ever known. I can no more imagine him actually behaving like these characters in real life than I can imagine Paul Ryan campaigning for abortion rights.

I recall reading that Daniel Radcliffe and Elijah Wood both deliberately sought out roles post-Harry Potter and LotR as different from their parts in those movies as possible, in part to avoid this sort of typecasting.
[nods] Personally, I feel odds are more often in favor of the scenario you're describing than the one my ex did. I just find the whole thing interesting, but then psychology was one of my majors. :D
I think it says a lot about Gleeson that he is not so enamored of fame and money. It sounds like a healthy choice for him to leave acting and continue his academic career. Maybe with maturity he'll return to acting, but if he does, I hope it's because he wants to.

As for playing evil characters...well I know a lot of actors enjoy those roles because it is so totally unlike themselves. It can be fun and it can be a release. That's true for roleplayers as well. We all have an element of "bad" in us and most of us never act on it except maybe in play.
i think it's pretty amazing that he has the self-awareness at this age to know what he wants and what he doesn't. i'm not sure i'd have had the same at his age.
I've seen this video floating around for a while, and I'm glad I finally took the time to watch it. Kudos to Gleeson for having self-awareness enough not to buy into the culture, and brains enough to dissect it and explain it.
I've listened to enough audio commentaries and such to hear repeatedly that the actors playing evil characters are often some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Some actors really relish these roles that are so far from themselves. Let's face it, the villians often get the best lines.

On the flip side, I remember hearing that one of the reasons Larry Linville left MASH is because people began treating him like his character and it became very uncomfortable. There's also the fact that Frank Burns was a character with zero character growth. I imagine that gets boring after awhile.
yeah, i imagine. i also can imagine that people may have treated mr. gleeson as if he were joffrey. (that's a scary thought.)
Actually, if the behind the scenes is to be believed, they're all pretty upset Jack is leaving the show. They'll miss him.