A Charlatan In Your Living Room

Movies haven't been around all that long, but acting has sort of been around forever. On a level, all of human life is an act. Right? To be conscious is to put on an act. We play whichever role we feel is ours to play. And whenever we break character it confuses us and everyone around us.

"You're just not acting like yourself today..."

"You're acting kinda funny..."

"We're all adults here, and it's time you start acting like it!"

Isn't there even a quote by some famous dead dude that expresses this very sentiment? "We're all actors and the world is a stage."

"Jeez! You're such an idiot." - Somebody acting like their arbitrary knowledge of the name of a dead playwright somehow makes them superior. The know-it-all, often one of the least favorite characters in a production.

That said though, actors are among the most revered people in our culture. I do sometimes wonder why this is. I also wonder why people so quickly and easily adopt the thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and views of their favorite actors. Actors are often spokespeople for all sorts of crazy causes - and we eat it up!

"Man, that guy played such a convincing lawyer in that film that I thought I'd be convicted! Now that he's tearfully telling me how I should vote, I feel as though I should listen to him! He seems so sincere. Almost as sincere as he was in that award-winning lawyer performance...."

News anchors, political commentators, politicians even. They're all actors. They all come complete with makeup, scripts prepared by someone else, and ultra-convincing false sincerity. We eat that shit up. Just like we do when we go to the movies. We want so hard to believe, that you could easily convince us of anything.

Here's a quick checklist of all the things you need to do to spread your message:

  1. Have a well-written, convincing script.
  2. Put on some makeup.
  3. Go on tv and speak with conviction.


I just don't think we're designed to interface with the world in the way we've begun doing so in recent years. Millions of years of evolution in which we are dealing with each other on a face-to-face basis, followed by just a few decades of having complete strangers in our living rooms for hours on end. We spend more time with some of our favorite actors, news anchors, commentators, than we do with members of our own families. Hell, they might as well be part of the family.

Put it this way, if you've seen every Johnny Depp movie, it's safe to say you've spent more time with Johnny Depp than you've spent with most of your extended family. So if Johnny Depp comes on your tv and tries to shove his ideology down your throat there's a damn good chance you'll willingly deep-throat that shit. And come back for seconds. "Of course I trust Johnny, he's practically part of the family!"

Just to put it into perspective....

Humans, as we exist today, have existed for roughly 200,000 years. Agriculture was invented roughly 12,000 years ago. The oldest story ever written, The Epic of Gilgamesh, is thought to have been written sometime between 1300-1000 BC. The printing press was invented in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg. The first successful photograph was taken in 1816. After this, 62 years passed before the first ever motion picture, The Horse In Motion, was filmed in 1878. Though, the earliest surviving motion picture, called Roundhay Garden Scene was released in 1888. It was 2.11 seconds long. The first film theater, called the Nickelodeon, was built in 1905. The name Nickelodeon comes from a combination of the fact that it cost five cents (a nickel) to get in, and the Greek word oideion, which apparently means "building for musical performances". The first feature-length film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was released a year later, in 1906. The Jazz Singer was the first feature length film with sound and was released in 1927. A year later, in 1928, the Baird Television Development Company broadcast the first transatlantic television signal, from London to New York. Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs was released a decade after this, in 1937, and was the first feature-length animated film. In 1980 CNN was launched and introduced the world to round-the-clock news coverage. Today, we've got 24/7television, DVR, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. According to Google, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Celebrities, or prominent people in society, have presumably existed from the beginning. But never before have they been able to infiltrate your consciousness in such a way as what is currently possible. But... never before has the opportunity for anybody to become a celebrity of sorts been so attainable. We are trending in a direction of ever-increasing connectivity and the abilities to both influence and be influenced are growing by the hour. With this great power comes great responsibility. So far though, we've wielded this sword pretty irresponsibly. I guess we're still figuring out how it works. The reason younger drivers have much higher insurance rates is because they're still irresponsible and still figuring out what they're doing. The same could be said for any number of things, micro and macro, including the issue of how we handle the powers of celebrity, connectivity, and the marketing of ideas & ideologies.

We've got a massive learning curve ahead of us, and the people vying for your trust, attention, and support have far more resources than you could readily conceive. Beware, for there is a charlatan in your living room...

jake chrismanComment