By Yasmin Donald
Unless you have been deliberately taking cover under your replica Captain America shield, you will probably have heard Tarantino’s Marvel comments about the rise of the superhero equating to the death of the movie star. Tarantino’s argument that Marvel movies have made the characters icons, and the actors playing them take the backseat, is actually a fair assumption to make. The highest-grossing movie of last year, Spiderman No Way Home, was not marketed as a Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, Toby Maguire team up, but rather, the anticipation was built around analysing the trailer for clues as to whether the spidermen had been edited out. And this year, one of the most anticipated movies is Avatar: The Way of Water; A CGI character-driven sequel to what is still the highest-grossing. Is this notion of ‘character as icon’ a bad thing for the industry? Not necessarily.
One of the perks of the character being the impulse to watch content rather than the actor is that it gives lesser-known actors a chance in the spotlight. Late last month Netflix released Wednesday: A TV series focused on the character Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family. In the early 90s, The Addams Family was a popular movie franchise centring around a rather gothic family with the role of Wednesday played by Christina Ricci.
Now, Netflix has given Wednesday her own show, with the title role being given to 20-year-old actress Jennifer Ortega who has played a number of minor roles in many popular tv shows and movies: With her most notable role being the lead in the Disney channel show “Stuck in the Middle”. With more character-driven content, character writing will naturally take priority over getting a popular actor or actress on board the project.
When it comes to the shift from the movie star to the character, there is also a greater divide between the character and the actor. When we consider the number of movies and TV shows that now leave a bad taste in our mouths due to the off-screen actions of the actor/actress involved, the division between the two means that a character can live on in our hearts, and the main thing that can ruin them is their writing.
A decreased prominence of the movie and tv star will also cause a shift in their social influence. Whilst movie and tv stars have played great roles in making important topics accessible to young people, and have used their platforms to disseminate useful information, the prominence of the movie star/tv star status can have a negative social impact.
Movie stars’ behaviour off-screen can negatively impact children. Dougal Sutherland, Victoria University’s School of Psychology clinical practice manager said in reference to the impact of Will Smith’s Oscar slap on children: “There’s a bit more hero worship at that primary school age group. And for many people Will Smith would be a hero. And you want to do what your heroes do,” said Sutherland.
The movie star also perpetuates the child star. Much like the movie star, according to Liz Fe: “The rise to the top for these actors and actresses is a steep slope, with them constantly trying to stay relevant in the public eye”.
As a result, according to Fran Walfish PsyD: “These kids grow up feeling a distorted belief that their mother will only love them if they present themselves in the highest form of achievement or personality-plus demeanour, not their true self”.
Moreover, the decreased prominence of the movie/tv star in society would hopefully help improve content, maintain our love for characters and more importantly, decrease negative social influence. In the absence of stars, we might see clearer skies in Hollywood and beyond.