Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Brangelina Syndrome

If a movie features either Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, I can't watch it. Same for Jennifer Lopez. George Clooney too, for that matter. When actors have been thrust into my face as much as these have, and their private and public lives have been hashed, rehashed, chewed, swallowed and regurgitated in every available medium wherever I turn, those actors lose the ability to disappear into their characters and thus make me believe long enough to disappear into the characters' stories.

I don't see Mr. and Mrs. Smith on the screen. I see Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie acting roles that pale in comparison to the ones they allegedly played in real life at the time of filming. Talk about spoilers...

Something similar happens for me when a novelist becomes an overexposed celebrity. Once the persona of the author takes precedence, her characters and stories become less convincing. I don't see the characters living their roles; I see the author creating these characters and putting them through their paces. That is not a minor distinction; for me, and for many readers, I imagine, this difference in perception is nothing short of disastrous. The suspension of disbelief that's so necessary if the reader is to be absorbed into the world of the story just can't happen.

I'm not talking here about the normal details that make up an author's bio, his occasional observations about writing or living the writer's life, but rather the up-to-the-minute, voyeuristic bombardment with tedious details of his private life, his opinion on subjects unrelated to his work, his daily routine, his children, pets, vacations, shopping sprees, peeves, diet... If it ties in with his work in some way I'm fascinated. Anything more and I'm turned off. I often long for the bad old days when all I knew about my favourite authors was what I read in brief biographies on jacket flaps. I knew them through their work, and that was all I needed.

Sad to say, there are authors out there, probably good ones too, whose work I avoid because of their overexposed-celebrity status. Dan Brown is one. I didn't pick up a Steven King book for many years for the same reason. Don't stone me, but JK Rowling is another.

Suspension of disbelief is critical for my enjoyment of fiction. How does an author's celebrity status affect your appreciation of his or her stories?

14 comments:

Julie R. Mann said...

While I can still read the books, (or see the movies) I think that if an author is such a big star, (or an actor is so exposed) I come to the book or movie with high expectations. Like with J.K. If I'm reading one of her books then it better be worth my time. Whereas if I'm reading a book by an author I've never heard of or heard very little of, I'm not going to be so judgemental right off the bat. I'll give him/her a bigger chance.

Emilija Sofeska, 1977 said...

I agree with your thoughts...The same thing happening in architecture too, overexposed architects becomes celebrity and not always has the briliant project. And that is much more dangerous, cause the building stay for a very long time...

G said...

I don't have that problem with movies or books, since I watch very few first run movies (I wait until they come to cable) and for books, I stay very far away from anything that is in any kind of best seller list.

I do have that particular peeve with music. Even though I'm somewhat old (46), I still enjoy exploring certain other types of music.

But with certain artists, their personal life has so overshadowed their music that there is no way that I would listen to any of it, no matter how good it may be.

Tom Doolan said...

Oddly, I don't have any of that. I will watch any movie that looks good, or if it's based on characters I know, regardless of who stars in it. Actors are actors, characters are characters, and authors are authors. I have never had any problem with separation. Even if I think the actor is a reprehensible person, I will still watch their movies if they are a good actor. Russell Crowe is a fine example of this.

Honestly, I can't think of an author who has reached such popularity that this would even be the case for me. Maybe Jackie Collins or Danielle Steele. But, since I don't read their kinds of books, it's a non-issue.

I guess I'm glad I have such an easy time with suspension of disbelief in this regard. makes my movie-going and book-reading much more enjoyable.

Charles Gramlich said...

I get that way about some actors I suppose, but haven't about Pitt and Jolie. Part of it is that I usually systematically avoid following any link or listening to anything about their personal life. You can't help but get some of it but I ignore so much that it doesn't impact me as much. I think I have the feeling about writers more for those who have achieved "literary" status, the Philip Roth's and John Updike's of our world. Those are the ones who really have to prove something to me.

Liane Spicer said...

Hi Julie,

That's the problem with too much hype; outsize expectations that usually lead to a let down. I've been there too many times. It's easier for me to just avoid anything that's over-hyped.

Liane Spicer said...

Emilija, thank you for an amazing insight; I never even thought of that! You're so right, and a badly designed building is indeed a lot more irksome and permanent than a disappointing book or movie.

Liane Spicer said...

G, I too tend to avoid bestsellers. And yes, I've been turned off certain artistes' music on account of their bad press.

Liane Spicer said...

Tom, thankfully far fewer authors are given the celebrity treatment than are actors and singers.

I think suspension of disbelief has become harder for me since I've become an author and read much more critically now. I can get past the initial reluctance with a bit of effort if the artist is extraordinarily talented, though, as happened with Stephen King.

Liane Spicer said...

Charles, I try to avoid the bombardment of celebrity news but sometimes the train wreck effect takes over and I can't turn away. It happened with the Tiger Woods fiasco last year. Thank goodness he's not a writer.

I've learned to tread warily with the literary-celebrity types too. Sometimes I struggle through to the end only to wonder: For THIS he/she won the X, Y or Z prize?

Jewel Amethyst said...

Dan Browne is one of my favorite authors. I still don't know him from Adams Gum Tree, except for the brief blurb on the back cover. I guess I am not interested enough in celebrity life to get to know the people behind the stories.

That said, I don't care how much they are in my face, I still enjoy their movies, books etc. That's because I realize even the dissecting of these celebrities in the media, does not necessarily reveal their true personalities, but the minute quirks and anomalities that oversensationalizes the personna.

Liane Spicer said...

Jewel, I find the celebrity hype a distraction. If I have to work too hard for that suspension of disbelief I just don't bother. Don't like the author/actor getting between me and the story.

Jeff Rivera said...

I have to agree with with Mr. Tom Doolan. I personally don't care whoever the actor or actress is on a book or a movie. I always pay attention to the story and how the actors/ actresses play their roles in that story, regardless how big of a star they are in Hollywood. More often than not, I new player in the field is given bigger consideration but it's always nice to know that new actors and actresses can also portray roles as good as Brad Pitt, Jolie or Danielle Steele for that matter, lol.

Liane Spicer said...

Jeff Rivera, I admire that. I would love to not be distracted by the personalities and just get lost in the stories/movies.