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September 14, 2007

The Guardian's Jeremy McCarter has an interesting blog post in the paper about actors and politicians. McCarter writes: "You may have noticed that we Americans get very excited about the nexus of performers and politicians. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the two leading examples, and what about actor-turned-senator-turned-actor-again Fred Thompson's recent entry into the presidential race?"

It's not just Americans who get excited about the close connection between actors and politicians -- the UK has a history of this crossover too, with actress Glenda Jackson turning Labor Member of Parliament in the early 1990s and stars like Ian McKellan being so outspoken on certain issues like gay rights that they get tangled up in party politics too.

The link between the two professions is an oft-commented and ancient one. Actors -- albeit in pursuit of a deeper truth -- make their living through "pretending" to be someone else. Politicians, also frequently get by on fictions of one kind or another in the pursuit of votes. Both require charisma and both thrive on applause.

Journalist and ex-politico Charley Reese has more to say on the link between the two fields in this article.

Now that actor-politician Fred Thompson (of Law & Order fame) has announced that he is running in the U.S. presidential election, Americans indeed have one more reason to get excited. Thompson's bid is somewhat more credible than, say, Gary Coleman's ill-advised entrance into the California Gubernatorial race against Schwarzenegger a few years ago. But at the end of the day, it amounts to the same thing: the political circus needs actors to give it shape and meaning, to stop a great many people in this country from switching off.

3 Comments:

  • Actors who "pretend" to be someone else, in my opinion, aren't really worth their weight in gold. It is a common misconception that acting is about living in someone else's shoes. That mentality leads to bad acting, QUICKLY.

    Mike
    The Cool As Hell Theatre Podcast

    By Blogger Michael, At September 15, 2007 at 1:21 AM  

  • The idea that America has a reason to get excited because Thompson has thrown himself into the circus would be laughable if it were not so sad.

    We all pretend. Politicians, actors - yes Mike, actors pretend - and children all act in ways that get us what we want. Or not. If you want something from me but don't act like it how will I know? I could guess, I guess.

    And my guess is that if Thompson were a child again, he would be the one hanging the retarted kid upside down in the woods during recess. Check his politics. This is not a joke.

    He may be a popular television personality, and this may bring more television viewers into the fray, but whose to say Gary Coleman might not have been the one brave soul who would have at least tried to stand up to that Thompson kid at recess. There might be some people in our brutal money culture who could use a little less of a bully in office. Maybe they won't be so tall and good looking.

    I suppose the biggest difference between actors and politicians might be what is at stake if they fail to care about the people who adore them.

    We do not need Fred Thompson. And to say that the political circus needs actors to give it shape and meaning is like saying the circus needs clowns to make it more funny. No it doesn't; it just needs the clowns it already has to be better clowns. More honest clowns. Because there is nothing more funny than the truth.

    And we can not afford to not be funny right now.

    mr. stick

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 17, 2007 at 1:07 PM  

  • We all pretend, anonymous. You are absolutely correct in that. but in the end, do you want to watch an actor who pretends to be someone else, or an actor who comes from self and layers on elements that he/she has dreamt up due to their life own life experiences?

    To many people get into acting because they want to be "someone else", "live in someone else's shoes".

    For me, that can quickly become torturous to watch.

    The greats develop their work from their understanding of who they are as a person, and what they have experienced in life (they are sitting around all day trying to figure out how someone else's life has played out).

    The next to last line that you wrote "Because there is nothing more funny than the truth" sums it up for me.

    Acting = your life experiences + embellishments on those experiences
    (made palpable for the audience to experience).

    By Blogger Michael, At September 18, 2007 at 12:17 AM  

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