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"Stick to acting."??!

Aaron Alexander posted 6 Aug 2009, 03:20 PM / edited 6 Aug 2009, 06:26 PM
 Alright, I have to vent, rant, whatever you want to call it. And I'm aware I'm preaching to the choir here, but never mind.

I'm also aware that this is hardly a new problem. Were there ever times and places where performance was respected as a profession? Possibly Bali? I suspect even Ancient Greek actors were looked down on by feta salesmen even if the playwrights were exalted.

But I digress...

Here's my issue: John Key goes out of his way to mention Keisha Castle-Hughes in a speech in Australia to businesspeople. He refers to her taking part in the 'Sign On' Greenpeace emission reduction campaign. His punchline - as his only possible purpose is some comic relief to an audience that he suspects shares his values - is "My advice to Keisha is this: stick to acting."

Cue guffaws from Queensland bigwigs.

The implication is that Keisha's profession (my profession) somehow renders her unfit to actively participate in the politics of her country, hell, in this case, her planet. I now get the impression that our PM's reductive world-view sees me and many of you, as clearly either stupid or hopelessly ill-informed as to utterly invalidate our opinions. 

And you know what? That's fine. I didn't vote for the guy. I'd've preferred he stuck to money-changing or whatever the f*** he did before he heard the call. 

WHat gets to me is that this is basically an acceptable attitude in our society. Compare the reaction to this comment to what you'd get if he'd said:

"My advice to Keisha is this: Stick to mothering."

He'd have trouble keeping his job!

Or even if he'd been talking about one of the many 'ordinary Kiwis' who choose to participate in the same campaign -

"My advice to Steve Smith is this: Stick to plumbing."

How dare he belittle a taxpayer that way?

The notion that a citizen is a) nothing but their job and b) if that job is of a certain kind they have no business speaking out on politics is repulsive. But sadly a popular perception seems to be that actors are all vain, self-centered, vacuous idiots who jump on political bandwagons without thought or consideration because they want to be cool.

Don't get me wrong, some of us are those things. But actors hardly have a monoploy on that.

Plus, there was an article in a leading local paper a while back questioning the very validity of 'celebrities' (99% of those mentioned being actors) engaging politically in a public way at all. Robyn Malcolm's name was mentioned, referring to her fronting for th Green Party at the election, and the implication was she was probably just trying to boost her profile to get more work. Disregarding the hideous slur on her character this implies, the fact is coming out in that way was more likely to cost her work than the other way around. I suspect people do these things despite their job, not because of it.

This all comes hard on the heels of almost all media in NZ referring to Mr. Rob Mokoraka exclusively as an 'actor' rather than a 'man'. He was essentially characterised as somehow less deserving of public sympathy, because, as an 'actor' he was surely just an attention seeking personality being 'out there' for his own amusement, rather than a man suffering a shocking personal tragedy. (I don't mean to exploit his pain simply to advance my own argument, my deepest sympathies and respect are with all those effected by what happened. I mention it because I found it a distressing injustice, and expressed as much to TVNZ, who have not replied.)

Well, that's my spleen pretty much vented I suppose. If anyone else has thoughts about it, I'd like to hear them.

I don't expect much will change around this issue. Many people will continue to see us as unimportant, frivolous, stupid and immature because of the job we do. I think it's bred into Western culture. I guess it's just worth remembering that it's out there. Also, I'd encourage us all to not live up to the stereotype, and to applaud and support any mebers of our community who care about issues in our society, and who are prepared to speak out, in any medium, intelligently, confidently, and with the innate understanding that, as citizens and taxpayers like everyone else in this democracy, they are inalienably entitled to do so.

No matter what anyone else says or thinks, it is our right, and some might say our duty.

Get well, Rob.

Aaron Alexander posted 6 Aug 2009, 03:24 PM / edited 6 Aug 2009, 06:29 PM
 BTW, here's an article on the Key/Keisha thing, in case anyone missed it:

My advice to John Key is this: Stick to being an A-hole.


John Smythe posted 6 Aug 2009, 06:40 PM / edited 6 Aug 2009, 07:02 PM
And here is a link to the Close  Up piece last night, where Keisha gets to respond: (you have to wait for the advert to play).

By the way, did anyone tell Joanna Lumley to stick to acting / comedy / being a blonde when she got active on behalf of the Gurkhas?



Dane 1 Giraud posted 8 Aug 2009, 02:30 PM / edited 8 Aug 2009, 03:58 PM
I think most actors should stick to making coffee...

But seriously, if some organisation/cause needs an actor rather than an expert in a said field/issue or their own enquiry to get them to start thinking about the worlds problems - what does that say about society in general? I cannot see why you would use a celeb unless your campaign was targeting the lowest common denominator... and if it was targeting such... what positive change are you expecting from attempting to mobilise a bunch of slugs?? I have to admit, a character from Outrageous Fortune telling me to think about this or do that has me running for the remote... It's an insult to thinking people.

But, I do agree, Aaron, there is a general distrust of creative types... I find it ironic that the NZFC needs a producer to speak for and collect monies on behalf of writers and directors for instance... why? Most practitioners I know are pretty astute and run their concerns fine, keeping their heads well above water considering the tough climate they work in.  Becoming a half way decent accountant is part of the job (acting/film making)! This kind of stereotyping of creative types only serves to keep money in the hands of non-creatives.

John Smythe posted 8 Aug 2009, 03:06 PM
Most intelligent people, Dane, understand the difference between a character in Outrageous Fortune and the actor playing the role. And many good actors are very tuned into the wider world and its concerns; that's partly what drives their passion.

Keisha was brilliant in her interview with Mark Sainsbury. She, Robyn, Lucy et al are intelligent, articulate and to be commended for endorsing campaigns they back sincerely. In today's political climate, as ever, sincerity is in short supply.

Good actors bring authenticity to everything they do, and if they come on to the same screens that carry the suspect utterances of Key et all, we can all gain from the comparison.  

Dane 1 Giraud posted 8 Aug 2009, 03:45 PM / edited 8 Aug 2009, 03:58 PM
Yeah, John... cause it's hard to look intelligent being interviewed by Mark Sainsbury...

You miss my point entirely, John. An actor can support any cause they want but they are only used by organisations to make causes either cool or accessible to the unenlightened... Now, there's no doubt they all do their homework once they decide to go public on something, but surely an expert in the field would be better value... the fact that a perception exists that the public couldn't absorb or tolerate the discourse of a leader in their field who could be, G-d forbid, percieved as talking down to them, is pretty sad.

Michael Smythe posted 9 Aug 2009, 11:05 AM / edited 9 Aug 2009, 11:07 AM
"... only used by organisations to make causes either cool or accessible to the unenlightened..."

Well why would you only want to access the enlightened?

The global cult of celebrity does have the whiff of manufacturing mass movements about it, especially in the hands of PR people. But I detect a different tinge to the Kiwi version. My take on it is that New Zealand actors are uncomfortable with fame, but if they are to be lumbered with it they might as well make good use of it.

And isn't raising the profile and reaching a wider audience than those who are already enlightened (and pompous with it?) of scientifically validated climate change issues more worthwhile than, for instance, fronting ads for dodgy finance companies?

Dane 1 Giraud posted 9 Aug 2009, 11:42 AM / edited 9 Aug 2009, 12:02 PM
Reaching a wider audience is fine, but my argument is that the use of celebs in campaigns is more to reach an uninformed, unquestioning and therefore more maleable crowd. Believe it or not some people would back a campaign because the celeb fronting it seemed nice in a recent Womans Weekly article they read. And hands up whos grandmother voted for Rodney Hide as a consolation for his missing out on a deserved win in Dancing with the Stars? Is this good? I guess the argument becomes that the means justify the ends, but this type of exploitation is just that... exploitation.

The more I ponder your post Aaron the more I think you have gotten the wrong end of the stick. Firstly I wouln't read too much into Mr. Keys joke... It's the standard ice-breaker for a basically unimaginative speaker almost certain to get a robotic titter. Secondly, I find it ironic, considering your vent, that Keisha will now get a meeting soley because she IS an actor, where as jo-shmo (Panel beater... Owner of Jim's Lawn Mowing Franchise) could never expect to demand a PM's precious time to repeat to him arguments he would have been taken through by advisers etc thousands of times.

I detect that some feel this meeting is going to be nothing short of historic, in the realms of Nixon's famous reaching out to China...  


Michael Smythe posted 10 Aug 2009, 02:12 AM
So Dane, did it really take this episode to reveal the truth about charisma? The masses have been influenced by personalities since our first paleolithic ancestor made others aquience to her /his demands by choice.

And what's with the Key apologist routine? (Pardon the vernacular - I'm in New York.) This is the man who won power for his party precicely by being a pleasant personality. Is it not blindingly obvious to all that Key's Keisha quip was a momentary laspe that allowed us a glimpse of the true blue nasty Nat that lies behind the Mr Nice Guy facade?

Dane 1 Giraud posted 10 Aug 2009, 07:02 AM / edited 10 Aug 2009, 07:52 AM
Michael... the guy is not a Bond villan! All that quip tells me is that he's not a very effective comedian. That said, he'll probably be up for a Billy T. award this year. To give him credit, at least it wasn't one of those artless anti-gags and he wasn't wearing, say, an ironic headband or fake moustache... Sorry, I take all that back. He's a comic genius!