Monday, 7 October 2019

Have there been any wise actors, musicians?

In a world where the 'thoughts' (expressed opinions) of actors and musicians are the staple of the mass media; it comes to mind that there has perhaps never been an actor or musician who was wise.

Of course nobody-at-all in the public arena is wise nowadays; but there are plenty of examples of wise representatives of most professions from the past. But of actors and musicians?...

There were and are a few intelligent As & Ms, but that intelligence always seems misplaced, foolish, actively-wicked... un-wise.

Indeed, such is the low average level, that when a reasonably smart person is among actors (e.g. like some directors) or among musicians (like some conductors, or composers) the performers express absolute astonishment at their brilliance, and accord them vastly exaggerated reputations.

And when an actor or musical performer is intelligent-merely; they are accorded a reputation for astonishing wisdom, creativity - even genius; even though they are merely spouting mainstream platitudes and secondhand conventional wisdom.

Maybe David Garrick, in the 18th century, was a tolerably wise actor - but he was a lot more than a actor. Glenn Gould was certainly a worthwhile thinker - but again he was much more than a performer. Pure performers?... I can't think of any.

When we are daily force-fed with the news and views of actors and musicians, in multi-page interviews; when biographies of performers take up yards of shelving in the new and secondhand bookshops, it comes to mind to ask - what is really going-on here?

8 comments:

S.K. Orr said...

My wife and I were just having this discussion yesterday. We were talking about the enormous weight the public gives to the ideas, opinions, and pronouncements of celebrities, especially actors. Even if completely moronic, at least musicians sorta kinda CREATE something. Actors get paid obscene fees to pretend to be someone else and to recite lines they didn't even create and to show the facial expressions, etc. that the DIRECTOR decides on. The actor might or might not have some input on it (I suspect the actor's "contribution" is inflated and distorted for public relations reasons, to keep the myth alive), but in the end, the director is in control of all the things for which the actor gets credit.

I do watch movies, and I appreciate when one moves me or drives me to think about a certain idea. But I try to keep in mind that I am being manipulated, just as I am forever trying to manipulate people and situations to my own advantage. In order to enjoy a movie or play or musical piece, I avoid reading interviews with people involved in the project. The vapidity and stupidity of most of them is truly stunning, and the few somewhat intelligent ones are actively evil. But once I read that a performer took a "brave" stand on some repugnant issue, I can no longer watch/listen without inwardly scowling. Interviews have ruined my ability to enjoy certain things forever, so I look away from them. When Dumbo's mother sings "Baby Mine" in the original cartoon movie, I'll cry every time. But I don't want to know anything about the personal life of the artist or the director or the writer. I can watch all 9+ hours of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy over and over, but I don't want to know anything about anyone involved in the production (sadly, I know too much already about some of them).

So I agree with you, Bruce. I don't think there are any wise actors or musicians. And if there are, they're doing a bang-up job of staying undercover. Now THAT'S acting.

John Fitzgerald said...

Most actors and musicians are fools indeed and that's probably why they're lionised as role models and 'icons' and so on. But Alec Guinness was definitely a wise man. I think Jeremy Irons is quite wise too. I also rate the musician Jah Wobble highly in the wisdom stakes. His autobiography 'Memoirs of a Geezer' tosses aside quite a few PC shibboleths.

dearieme said...

An old friend once suggested to me that the job actors do worst is playing the role of someone intelligent.

Francis Berger said...

What is really going-on here?

I am not sure about musicians, but weren't actors generally looked down upon throughout most of history? Something to do with their ability to be pretenders and dissemblers?

I would say actors are very cunning - the profession requires them to essentially prostitute themselves for a shot at fame, money, success. Contrary to the truth you reveal here, most modern people would regard this sort of motivation and approach to life as indisputably wise.

Bruce Charlton said...

Comment from Tom:

"...Thinking entails gauging one's own hypothetical responses to hypothetical situations in order to understand what may happen, may have happened, what other people may do, may have done, etc.

"Since performers regularly simulate responses as part of their job it seems to me that this is going to muddle up that whole business.

"On top of this their motives are questionable. Some may be attempting to claim for themselves the honour due to the creator of the work they are performing, whereas in reality their contributions are modest. The audience abets them in this: most people aren't very imaginative so they can't imagine (and thus don't credit) the creative imagination of writers, directors and composers.

"Finally, of course, the powers-that-be exploit all this by using actors as mouthpieces for their narrative."

-- Tom

Bruce Charlton said...

I am fulsome in my praise of great actors and musicians - they really do enhance life. But it is quite usual for such people to be idiots when it comes to Life.

I think this has always been the case - and the gap between how someone is on stage or in the concert hall (when they may seem more than human) - and afterwards, when they open their mouths and words come out - is only matched by elite sportsmen...

Cricketers are far from the stupidest of sportmen, but I find the post-match interviews absolutely intolerable. To witness an act of sporting genius like Ben Stokes winning 'singlehanded' against Australia at Headingley this summer; then to hear Ben Stokes talking-about it, is a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous...

It can, of course, be interesting to hear any expert talking about their area of expertise; but not about politics, ethics, the environment...

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

My favorite "wise musician" quote comes from a newspaper interview with Buck Owens. The pullquote -- the pullquote, mind you! -- was: "I know I pioneered some things, no doubt. I'm not really sure how I feel about it."

TheDoctorofOdoIsland said...

Some potentially wise actors: Christopher Lee, Peter Lorre, Bruno Ganz, Gene Wilder, Patrick Stewart, Peter Cushing, Dean Cain, David Warner. Perhaps Julie Andrews.

- Carter Craft