The Fading Era of the Hollywood Celebrity

Advanced A.I. will soon generate live action indistinguishable from real human actors. Is this the end of the movie star?

Famous actor and outspoken politico Alec Baldwin speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con International, for “The Boss Baby”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Celebrities have been telling us what to do for far too long.

What to buy, how to dress, what kinds of cars to drive, what kinds of houses to live in, how to do our hair. More and more, celebrities even want to tell us how to vote, what to think, and who we can be friends with.

Why do we listen? And once A.I. images replace live actors, will we still?

Will the world still idolize movie stars?

Nothing Lasts Forever

It was always rather a silly industry to venerate, to pay in extraordinary sums and status those lucky souls who’ve honed their crafts and found their breaks.

Wouldn’t scientists make more sense? Or teachers? Or doctors? Or hero billionaires who spoke at a commencement today then commenced with paying off the entire graduating classes’ school loans, bless him.

Instead, 21st century American society has chosen for its standard bearer, actors and pop musicians.

Technology is changing and reshaping our lives every day, at exponential levels. It was only a matter of time before technology, and possibly hubris, caught up to Hollywood. Already, A.I. can generate realistic human faces indistinguishable from real faces and, only recently, whole human bodies.

For some reason, probably a combination of factors, our society in the 21st century reveres and elevates to celebrity status neither scientists nor doctors, not environmental activists, teachers, artists, nor poets, but actors on television, rockstars, and anyone else who can entertain thoroughly enough to distract us all from our boring lives.

Perhaps it is part residual collective awe over the amazing new technology of moving pictures, part humankind’s natural instinct for story. Maybe the unbearable lightness of being plays a part; so much of life is terrible, there is so much suffering in the world. These days, you can see as much of it as you can handle on the internet 24/7.

Or you can turn on a great movie and see none of it. For a time, anyway.

In our gratitude for this tender mercy, we are willing to pay extraordinary sums regularly for the imaginative products some group of creative genies dreamed up.

And because that leading man or leading lady played our favorite hero on tv, we think we know them, we trust them. We love them. That’s why companies have been using celebrities to sell us things for years.

But we don’t really know celebrities, do we? Not at all. Daniel Radcliffe is not Harry Potter. Robert Downey Jr. is not Tony Stark.

Why should we trust them?

If Kate Winslet stars in an ad for a drugstore wrinkle cream, and looks unnaturally young for her years in said ad, should I believe that the $20 cream she is hawking is how she maintains her youthful good looks?

Kate Winslet is rich. And she has a higher degree of motivation to preserve her looks than the average person: Her very livelihood depends on it. It would make perfect sense for Kate Winslet to invest a significant amount of the profits from her work as an actress into maintaining her number one tool in doing that work, her face.

If Taylor Swift tells us to vote for someone, why should anyone listen?

Soon, technology will relegate movie and pop stars to the role stage actors were forced to assume once moving pictures came along; some people will still prefer to see real humans emote onscreen. But most will love the new way, and the endless possibilities it will bring.

And the days of celebrities wielding such serious influence, both socially and politically, may soon be over.

The celebrity spokesperson may become, like so many other things in our modern society, a thing of past.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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