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May 1992


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"Keith Nightenhelser, DePauw University" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 May 1992 17:17:00 EST
text/plain (31 lines)
To follow up on Ben Alpers' comment a bit--
I think we frequently do see actor/characters presented as
"transcendent figures" in popular entertainment, so that they
come through as more real than the entertainment (at least
that particular episode) itself.  Whether this sort of presentation
leads to further mystification is hard to judge, I think, since
we have some pop entertainment that takes as its subject the
very mystification we are discussing--_The King of Comedy_ comes
to mind, and the little-seen film _The Deep End_.  Films like
these take as a premise that fans can be mystified to the point
of madness or ridiculousness about the reality of a star and of
the star's personal relationship to fans.  (_Hairspray_, and some
of the more metatheatrical episodes of Ralph Bakshi's _New Ad-
ventures of Mighty Mouse_, also employ the obsessed fan/artificial
"star" relationship, but haven't the tragic or monitory tones of
Scorsese's or Skolimowski's treatments.)
If I may invoke another theoretical authority I'm not very familiar
with: could we see the transcendent star/actor/character as a
simulacrum in Baudrillard's sense, a perfect copy of something
that never existed, treated as having exemplary reality and importance?
This sort of star/simulacrum is more and more possible with the
advent of computing technologies that can place Bogart, Marilyn
Monroe, and Cagney in softdrink ads, and probably eventually
in movies (once the lawyers work out the details).
I wouldn't be surprised if enterprising members of the Writers'
Guild weren't already pitching stories for films with Elvis and
Marilyn together as they never were before, and the like.
Keith Nightenhelser, DePauw University   ([log in to unmask])