Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Heavy Price

I just read this article. I know I am probably too sensitive in the eyes of most people, particularly in theatre. However even as someone who loves performing, I would have to conclude there is a line that is not worth crossing.

This professional seems to have crossed it, in my opinion. It was supposed to be an upbeat article, but I found it depressing.

I acknowledge that in the professional acting world this is true more often than not. Yet I cannot help but think that if enough dedicated artists over an era or two refused to tolerate this sort of thing, it might change in the future.

I don't know. I know there are many fabulous professional performers. I have met some in my day. Many of them are fantastic, well adjusted people. Yet when I read an article like this, I am almost glad I am not professional. (Forgive me professional actors who may read this blog.)


Playmaker said...

I read the article a day or two ago as well, and while it's depressing, it's also reality. What I find unfortunate is that it's not just reality for professional actors, it's reality for most women.

We (as a society) have become sick in our expectations of beauty. And at the same time, what it is it now? 1/3 of Americans are obese? Something's out of whack.

When I was in drama school, we were weighed and given fitness tests quarterly. To not stay fit or at least make progress toward your goal was grounds for probation. (Funny how smoking and being hung-over in class weren't.)

People wonder why actors are often sort of crazy people. It's stuff like this. I don't think it has anything to do with being creative. I think it's stuff like this.

G.A. McLeod said...

Hi Ty--
I agree with you that this article is distressing. There are a couple parts of this problem. One part certainly has to do those professionals who act the way the woman in the article describe (and although I try to see her point, I can't help but think she hasn't completely transcended her "disorder").

However, another sad part of this whole mess has to do with audiences. Many audiences today (this has long been the case in film, probably increasingly so in theatre) all but demand such standards of "thinness". I can't count the number of times I've heard people (especially men) call some performer "too large", even when this is far from the case. We men have to do much better with regards to our respect and caring for women.

The saddest thing about this whole thing is that the professional theatre world seems to be giving in to this kind of activity in order to attract a larger audience. I think this is a mistake, for a couple of reasons. First, this reduces and corrupts the art form, transforming the energy that ought to be going into producing inspiring performances into a self-conscious worry for the actor and a cheapened aesthetic. Second--I don't think this will ultimately prove successful in gaining new audiences. Deadly thin women can be seen everywhere, including in film. Audiences drawn to that kind of thing will probably be more likely to avoid theatre in the first place. And I'm just not convinced that loyal theatre audiences would be insulted by women in leading roles failing to be paper thin. Maybe I'm wrong about this. I hope not.

Nonetheless, the way forward is probably for those who are willing to do things differently to carry the torch--concentrate on what's important, creating through respect, emotion, and thought. Such theatre will be so much better than what's offered by those who flout these ideals that at least a small audience will pay attention to it, and everyone else will be missing out on something great.

Ty Unglebower said...

Both of you make excellent points. The problem does of course extend beyond theatre and the entertainment world. It is a societal epidemic these days, and it only seems to be getting worse.

I will not repeat myself here, but I will simply say that if people want realism in their theatre, the thin ideal does not provide that. Yet I will also go the extra step and say that the razor thin archetype ultimatley dilutes the power of theatre even for those who pursue only escapism.

When i think of just the women I know who would be denied roles in certain plays, if not all of them because of their physical dimensions, I think of just how much audiences would miss out on the top notch performances they could turn in, even for the so called escapist or fluff shows that exist out there.

The theatre arts have reshaped social perception before in the history of the world. Despite wanting to make money, (understandably) I wish they would choose to do so again in regards to this issue.