Monday, May 2, 2016

Early Stars: Our Girl vs. The Shiek - Core Post #1 By: Arielle Sitrick

Staiger and deCordova write about the first emergence of stars: prior to the popularization of film, performers weren't notorious as they are today and have been for the last seventy five years give or take. DeCordova writes that stars emerging as a phenomena depended on strict regulation of what conversation they provoked. Fitting in with Hays administration restrictions on what movies could and could not depict, star-players were as produced as the films they played in. Controlling content, including movie players, in a manner supporting a particular film's distribution mattered to the Hollywood's decision makers.

DeCordova breaks down the "distinction between the filmic, profilmic and the real" as he believes it play into creation of the "picture performer". A separation between the actor’s role in the movie, the production and “reality” play into the star phenomenon. A star exists within the world, but without. In the eyes of the public, a star is enigmatic and extraordinary, but must remain ordinary in small ways so the fantasy is grounded in culture. Many tabloid magazines have features titled something like “Stars: They’re Just Like Us” that familiarize the public with stars by showing them performing ordinary activities and tasks. As stars exist primarily in images, and moving images (or whenever cameras are around), it behooves the studios to circulate images of their film's actors that coincide with the particular archetype this person serves the studio.

Until the post-modern era, stars overtly reinforced gender stereotypes and social structure, while covertly opening up critique. Of course, not all films opened critique, but those that did generally did it quietly, or through comedic manners (i.e. screwball comedy). Screwball comedy films were naughty, barely sliding by the MPAA’s production code with “an infectious sense of fun to them, and a saucy sexiness that often seemed to barely skirt the rigid proscriptions the MPAA’s Production Code” (Bryge, Miller 1991 xiii). Screwball comedy was a way for filmmakers to be daring while existing within the framewokr of censored Hollywood. Whereas censorship in cinema symbolized constraints of society and adherence to social norms, comedy was Hollywood’s arena for social commentary and rebellion­–through laughter and ambiguity.

Until cameras became more readily available and the internet was a public tool, star images were archetypical, fastening a star to their ascribed archetype. This both inhibited and gave star-persons freedom to exist behind closed doors more than they can today. Today, stars are expected to have social media presences and self-promoted brands, a far different cultural atmosphere than existed when stars emerged and studios were responsible for branding. In the 21st century, more than ever, individuals are expected the create and promote their own brands. The studios no longer control what is circulated, and the baton has been tossed to the public.

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