Sunday, January 17, 2016

Core Reading Response: The Star Phenomenon

What caught my interest most about this week’s reading was the power of celebrity through the lens of film production. Studios have traditionally played it safe (for the most part) with the stories that are told and the people who star in them as a means of financial safety. A studio takes a large risk with any major release, thus I can understand why they would play it safe with the talent they attach: and when it boils down to it, studios are in it for the money. Hollywood, especially, is a business. Dyer mentions the use of stars in studios as a means of investment and of brand, and I’d absolutely agree. In a risk-averse atmosphere, studios rely on well-known and well-liked names to drive box office success. For example: two films I’ve seen recently: Sex Tape (2014) and Pixels (2015), in my opinion, were successful solely because of the people who starred in them (Cameron Diaz and Ryan Reynolds in Sex Tape, Adam Sandler in Pixels, among others) versus for the content of the story itself. At the same time, though, I believe the idea of ‘playing it safe’ with talent & cast is beneficial mostly to studios from a financial standpoint and not necessarily from a moral standpoint. As the debate of diversity and inclusion becomes more and more relevant, especially with a VERY present lack of diversity in the Oscar nominees, (#OscarsSoWhite is happening for the second year in a row, and has been...for all of time, basically), I believe the conversation and the desire for fresh, diverse talent is absolutely present. With a larger breadth of content/platforms (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime) and a vastly different social climate (racial tension, an evolving queer rights movement, etc.), commercial desire and consumption is shifting; in turn, affecting how much ‘star power’ plays a role in the creation & consumption of media. While a few decades ago, certainly in the Golden Age of Hollywood, audiences were attracted to a certain star’s name or image on the marquee or big screen, today, there is so much MORE content - and that content is so much more accessible. In addition, as audiences are becoming more selective with content, I believe Hollywood’s old business practices are undergoing a major shift. While moviegoers may be somewhat attracted to watching a movie solely for its stars, this is becoming less and less a necessity.

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