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The triviality of modern day ‘Acting’

This week I bought my first copy of ‘New Girl’ – an American TV show headlined by famous actress Zooey Deschanel. The show attempts to dissect the modern relationships of excruciatingly attractive thirty somethings, but is somewhat hampered by the constraints of the sitcom style setting.  I became engrossed by the series  — not for its ‘Friends’ style light humour, or its modern attitudes to casual sex, juxtaposed  with the sheer attractiveness of its glossy cast. No, it was more to do with Zooey Deschanel herself – an entirely feminine creature of Swiss and Dutch descent.

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Admittedly, the show would fall apart without her natural charms and congenitally as both a comedic and dramatic actress. Her blue, hypnotic and piercing eyes swimming in sea of alabaster skin framed by her lusciously dark fringe; Zooey demands us to laugh at her comic pratfalls, her moments of poignancy and the sympathy that she exudes – something that she does with resounding success. It’s a skilful and unique talent that has been emulated by many actresses but never replicated in its entirety.

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But more often than not, I had to remind myself that Zooey is an actress – a person who is paid to recite lines of a script. Zooey does not write the series narratives that supply her with the zany one- liners, the moderate humour or even the storylines that resonate throughout the ups and downs of the show.

Many have thus criticised the redundancy of actors when contrasted to the hard working creativity that works in the background, with regards to scripting, storyline development and cinematography. Most noticeable is former child actress, Mara Wilson. After delighting the world in several family wholesome classic films including, ‘Mrs Doubtfire’, ‘Matilda’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, Mara disappeared from the silver screen – much to the shock of her critics who gave her relentless adulation for her performances.

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The rationale of Ms Wilson’s surprising abandonment of a successful acting career seems to epitomise the triviality of the modern day profession.

She contrasted acting to ‘finger painting’: ‘It was a fun pastime, but it came easily to you, so you never took much pride in it. Regardless, you got a reputation for your finger-painting. Now imagine that, fifteen to twenty years later, people are coming up to you and telling you that they have your finger-paintings up on their walls and that your finger-paints changed your life. It’s flattering, but you haven’t finger-painted in years, and it seems like something you did a long, long time ago.’

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Mara’s likening of the profession to the rudimentary ‘art’ such as finger painting, only emphasises the disparity of modern actors from the more creative talents that are involved in the background maintenance of the show.

‘You’ve realized you don’t particularly enjoy getting your hands dirty and that there are other outlets for your creative urges. But people are adamant: are you going to finger-paint again? When? Wait, you’re not? Why not? That’s what it feels like.

Matilda has been name-checked by librarians and feminist bloggers alike, and I’m flattered, though the compliment does not seem to be mine to receive. I didn’t write Matilda or direct the movie, I just played the part.’

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Finally Mara comments on the downsides of actresses in the modern filming industry: ‘Here is something no real celebrity will ever tell you: film acting is not very fun. Doing the same thing over and over again until, in the director’s eyes, you get it right, does not allow for very much creative freedom. The best times I had on film sets were the times the director let me express myself, but those were rare. My point is that film can be exciting, but more often, it’s tedious. The celebrity aspect is nothing short of ridiculous, and auditioning is brutal and dehumanizing… I never feel nostalgia, just relief.’

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Surely Mara’s comments support a profession that could be disappointingly redundant in the bigger and broader picture of entertainment. Yet whether Mara’s commentary of acting can be interpreted as embittered comments to directly disregard a profession that she has become disillusioned with or a genuine, honest reflection of her experiences, remains to be seen. However Zooey’s efforts ‘New Girl’ offer a contrary example to the triviality of acting. Her acting talent single handily makes the lightweight fluff that is ‘New Girl’ shine above its fitfully funny scripting.

5 comments on “The triviality of modern day ‘Acting’

  1. jcisnowjs
    December 14, 2013

    Good Post, Thanks.

  2. dalecooper57
    December 14, 2013

    Nicely dissected. I liked New Girl despite myself, she is a very likable actress with natural comic timing and her co-stars are good too, especially the crassly hilarious Schmidt.

  3. kristininholland
    December 14, 2013

    Scripts can be amazing and turn into crap with the wrong actors, and vice versa: mediocre scripts can be transformed by the talent of acting. I am intrigued by Mara Wilson’s account of the acting experience. I’m sure it’s all true. But work in general is hard and we all have to act on occasion in jobs that fall out of the limelight. Ever had a client you can’t stand but you remain professional? Every time? Your internal director is writing the script for you, you say the words.
    What if an actor chose the script because it fit their personal ethics? Think Julia Roberts playing Erin Brockovich or Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela, or playing eco-advocate Jake Tillerman in my novel Green, for example. Sure, the director might dictate every move, but it is the actor who transforms the role into mediocrity or success. Gosh; I guess I had an opinion about your post!

  4. Avinash Gupta
    December 15, 2013

    I saw few episodes of Season 1 after perusal from a friend. I agree with you more that the series is too much dependent on the charm of Zooey and its more about style than substance

  5. The Writing Waters Blog
    December 15, 2013

    I haven’t seen New Girl and don’t know Mara Wilson (yes, I am out of things, everything) but reading what you’ve written were Wilson’s views reminds of an article I read a while back about children who are repeatedly told they are “geniuses” at something and grow up so believing it that they forget to work at it until they are something like 30 or 40 and realize they didn’t know jack and people with far less “talent” are the ones who succeeded.

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