Randomly today, I started thinking about Twilight (bear with me here). I read the books, and yes, they were essentially teen fan fiction, but I was a teenager (just barely), and I was intrigued by the concept of a human in love with a vampire. (Important: This was before I had seen Buffy, through which I realized there was a much better way of telling this kind of story.) I went to see the first movie and, like many, found Kristen Stewart’s portrayal to be kind of annoying, and immediately deemed her a “bad actress.”
This was unfair of me, because looking back now, I see the situation a bit differently. If I were Kristen Stewart, attempting to make my way in Hollywood, and I had the opportunity to attach myself to a franchise that was undoubtedly going to take off with lightning speed, I would probably have jumped at the chance as well. It would get me exposure, open up doors for me, and allow me to make enough money so that I could focus on smaller, independent projects that I really cared about, despite them having a smaller budget.
Now, I have no idea if this was Kristen Stewart’s mindset, but it’s one that I relate to. As someone who studied journalism, marketing is not where I envisioned I would be three years out of college. I’m certainly not a salesperson (despite my two months working at American Eagle in high school), and I don’t really like feeling as though I’m manipulating people. I am, like I believe most journalists are, in love with the idea of telling real stories. Whether they tell them through newspapers, photographs, magazines, radio, television, or the internet, journalists are, at the heart of it all, storytellers.
However, this isn’t typically what those outside of the profession see. They see advertisements, which are, of course, necessary in order to make a living in this industry. They see click bait, they see emotional manipulators, and they see a constant need to be the first, which is often followed by careless mistakes and retractions of those errors. And trust me, I don’t blame them – all of those things are true.
But isn’t that the problem? Our inability to see past what we know to be true at this moment. In order to be a good journalist, that’s something you have to constantly work on. And it must be the same for actors. They also want to make a living telling stories, and they also want to understand what it is that makes others tick. And they also sometimes “sell out” – they make movies or TV shows that others don’t respect as much, and which seem to cater only to making money.
These similarities are what frustrate me when I see actors in the media tearing down, well, the media. You hear of a famous personality yelling at reporters, refusing to speak with journalists, and calling them names. To back up a bit, I do understand to a degree where they’re coming from. When a number of big names decided to take a stand against tabloids publishing photos of their children without their parents’ consent, I fully supported them. Just because someone is well-known, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to protect their children from the same exposure.
But I also don’t see why they needed to hurl insults at the paparazzi while doing so. Chances are, they’re just journalists who are trying to get by, who want to tell stories that others are interested in. They may not be going about it in a way that you like, but for the most part, they’re not trying to hurt you. They just want to make a living. I believe the ban they’re put in place is justifiable, certainly, but I feel as though it’s probably just the first of many steps that will ultimately result in the loss of jobs.
Because people are going to go where the jobs are, and oftentimes, creative jobs are “corrupted” by the strive for the almighty dollar. We buy tabloids because we want to read about what these people – the ones behind the faces that we truly don’t know – are doing, eating, saying, etc. And as long as we’re buying, they’ll continue to get made.
I believe that many actors understand this, and they comply with the media to a degree. No one has any obligation to do this (that I know of), but many choose to. For example, there was recently an in depth article in Rolling Stone about Taylor Swift, and in order to write it, the journalist was welcomed into her personal, behind-the-scenes life (or, what she was willing to show of it). At one point, she walked with him in Central Park, and he writes about the sheer number of paparazzi and the security detail necessary for this seemingly small outing to occur.
And yet what he didn’t make note of was the fact that these reporters were doing essentially the same job as he – trying to learn more about Taylor Swift, and tell a story that others will want to read (i.e. spend money on). The difference between the two? Mostly prestige. Therein lies the point of all of this: We’re all using slightly different methods to ultimately get the same desired result. These creative positions we hold allow us to tell stories, but we require money in order to keep doing so. Whether it’s a cheesy teen movie franchise or in the tabloids, many of us have to start at “the bottom,” and it doesn’t really make you any less of an artist than those who are in Oscar-winning films or writing for Vanity Fair. It’s just a different path.