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Method Acting, Masculinity, and Make Believe

A very interesting article by Angelica Jade Bastién today in the Atlantic on why “Hollywood Has Ruined Method Acting.” Using Jared Leto’s performance in Suicide Squad, she makes the point that method acting has taken on a masculine slant for the actors, and not so much actresses, to prove their commitment to their craft through suffering.

As a screenwriter, I have often wondered about the importance given to actors and actresses in film/ TV. True they are the face of the product, with the directors, writers, and producers being relegated to the background. But I also find it interesting that when you purchase movies in iTunes (as we do in my household), they list the people involved in the film in the following order: Actors, Director, Producers.

Yep, nowhere on the purchase screen, where you get your synopsis as well as the important people involved, do they mention the screenwriter. The actors being mentioned, I sort of get. They are the face of the movie/ show after all. And the director makes sense as well since s/he is running the show.

The producers are incredibly important as well, but I never hear any of my friends saying “oh, did you hear a new Brian Grazer film is coming out? Let’s drop what we’re doing now and go see that!” No one mentions the producer any more than they do the screenwriter because those individuals are behind the camera while the actor is out in front of said camera.

What Angelica Jade Bastién hits upon in her article with the quote from Christian Bale is that acting can be considered a “sissy” profession, one where you have your hair and makeup done while everyone else is scrambling to have the scene ready for when you arrive to say a few lines that you didn’t even write.

All children love dressing up and acting out imagined roles, which means in effect the actor is living out a childhood fantasy of playing make believe for a living. This is in direct opposition to the American concept of work, which can best be summed up by a quote from my father: “If you liked what you did for a living then it wouldn’t be called work.”

So, to justify their success to themselves, according to Bastién’s article, actors employ method acting to prove they have suffered for their craft by enduring self-inflicted hardships. You’d think they’d be happier getting paid to do what every child dreams of when they grow up.

I know I’d be.

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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout.  He has written two books on fantasy worldbuilding, and teaches worldbuilding techniques, tricks, and tips at Forging Fantasy Realms once a week on YouTube. 

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