Actors and Politics:
The Thank You, Hollywood, for helping re-elect President Bush billboard made me wonder: Why is it that so many popular and otherwise appealing actors come across so badly -- silly, strident, vacuous, self-important, and the like -- when they talk politics?
Some might say that it's because the actors are silly, strident, vacuous, and self-important. But even if that's right (and I imagine it's true for some and not for others), so what? It's an actor's job to act like someone they're not -- that's what they do for a living. You're not actually a professional baseball player, or an assassin, or the President; but you try to credibly pretend that you are one. Likewise, you may be a pompous ass rather than a thoughtful, empathetic, and trustworthy commentator. But if you're a good actor, you should be able to play thoughtful, empathetic, and trustworthy.
So why don't the actors just treat this as a role? You've got a new gig, which requires a bit of improvising. Your character is someone people trust and like. He's passionate but reasonable, serious but funny, compassionate but hard-headed. He's the guy next door, who's smart enough that his neighbors trust him, but not so full of his smarts that his neighbors loathe him. Your goal is to make the filmgoers like you, and thus like what you say. (Want more incentive? Pretend you're trying to get the Best Actor in a Politically Persuasive Role Oscar. Can't improvise? Heck, don't you know any screenwriters? Have them script some lines for you.)
Does the character call the President dirty names, even when he dislikes him? Does he fail to grasp how patriotic his neighbors are? (Not your real Hollywood neighbors, dummy, the neighbors of the character you're playing.) Does he threaten to move out of the country if the wrong guy gets elected? Seriously, if you're a good actor, shouldn't the answers -- and thus the lines you improvise for yourself -- be obvious?
Heck, if all this doesn't work, here's one for you. Remember Ronald Reagan? Think of him as a great actor? No? Think you could out-act him in your sleep? Think he was evil and hateful, and managed to dupe people into not seeing it? (Never mind that he wasn't, I'll bet you think he was.) Then why could he play amiable, decent, and trustworthy -- even to millions of people who disagreed with him on many things -- and you can't?
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