Think of your favourite food and imagine it rolling around in your mouth. Now imagine you can enjoy that bad fella for ninety minutes at a time and it’s socially acceptable, encouraged even. That’s the metaphor I’m going for here: watching your guilty pleasure of an actor is pretty much a calorie-free aesthetic gorge. And oh don’t we love it.
I came to this conclusion for several reasons. One, being the fact that it isn’t often that we sit down for frivolous film watching time and choose to watch something thoughtful starring the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Tilda Swinton, in spite of their genius. It is DiCaprio, Johannson and Fassbender that we end up watching. For you, it might not be those names specifically, maybe you’re more of a Ryan Reynolds type, or like me, can’t say no to Hugh Jackman, no matter how bad you thought the last X-Men film was. In the end, the particular indulgent actors isn’t what matters, and isn’t what I’m going to continue to discuss. I am more interested in why these collectives of people are the ones we choose to stare at for an hour and a half or more, when we know we aren’t necessarily learning from their theatrical wisdom or being metaphysically challenged by their steely gazes.
This takes me back to the food metaphor. I now apologise forthwith if you don’t like cake, as this metaphor will be lost on you. Most people like cake. Most people eat cake in larger quantities or more often than we should, knowing it has no nutritional value whatsoever. But yet, we still do, knowing that there is nothing more to gain from the enjoyment of this cake in comparison to the last slice we had. Now there are several features of cake that make it universally enjoyed- its impressive way of sitting on a plate, its sweet taste, and its rich abundance of flavour. You get the picture. We all know what a cake tastes like. But this idea similarly goes for those indulgent actors of ours that we can’t get enough of. Let’s stick with Hugh Jackman. I love him for his celebrity; he seems like a great guy, and for some reason I enjoy watching a film more when I believe the actors to be kind, friendly people. I love him for his face, just ‘cos. I love him because he’s Jean Val Jean. For many more reasons than just these, I will watch pretty much any film he appears in, several times, even though they’re poorly rated on the Tomato-meter and they won’t make me question my morality and put me in a pensive state for a while afterwards.
Looking over those reasons it seems that our indulgent actor choices often have one thing in common; they involve us lying to ourselves for a while (just like we do with vanilla-speckled, bouncy, cream and sugar coated cake). These actors often fill us with a naïve false hope of splendour and light heartedness. They provide us with the means to reach the epitome of escapism that goes with watching a film. This is where the guilt is involved. We know that if we stare at these too often beautiful creatures for too long, we will start to be drawn in and become fat with the fantastical. But I suppose this is much better than eating cake too often… as then you’ll just become fat.