Film Actors : Court jester to Guardian of the Universe

Actors are in vogue in these modern times. Be it radio or TV or newspaper and now even mobile caller tune, some actor or actress continues to tell us as to how to safeguard against covid or save the earth by using plastic or wear a particular deodorant to attract the opposite sex. In our day to day life, we constantly get advice or a nudge from an actor or actresses on almost every medium.

These days Actors are considered the best option for any brand to create trust/visibility in its targeted audience. In a way actors/actresses have replaced kings/queens, noblemen/women, scientists, authors, teachers, religious leaders and have become the guiding light of society. Today it is not a scientist or philosopher whose name or quote is used by the United Nations to bring urgency related to climate change or hunger or any other crisis, it is always some actor or actress.

In a way, actors/actresses from being a mere entertainer or court jester, have now occupied the main position in society with strong opinion and influence. They have a far deeper impact in society, politics and governance. Hence whether it is United nations or a mere commercial brand, all are using actors/actresses to create trust and build mass followings. Every advertiser in a way is using actors as a perfect symbol of values, physique or personality and nudging us to change our behaviour and be like those actors/actresses in being a responsible citizen or be a consumer who can attain same lifestyle or body characteristics by consuming the advertised brand.

Nothing can be more paradoxical. An actor is great not because he or she is a great human being but he/ she is great because he/she is best fake. It is the ability of an actor to mimic and create a surreal reality which makes him or her a great actor. Majority of actors in real life are diametrically opposed to the role they generally play in reel life. However interestingly brands, state or international bodies use actors/actresses to create a trust or strive for higher personal conduct in day to day life despite those brand ambassadors or the main protagonist showing no such virtues in their real life.

Similarly, movies are considered to be a reflection of our societies and ethos. They are said to mimic our culture. Nothing can be farther from the truth. While movies do have a base setting in line with the existing culture, the base setting remains just a base setting. To capture attention and keep people talking about it, movies go far beyond the base setting and true to their word - they add drama to it. The drama being drama has nothing to do with real life. As such, Movies on a whole do not represent the society but rather the dark fantasies, debauchery or wild imagination of the storyteller. The tragedy is that given the strong role movies play in shaping our behaviour through it influence on conscious / subconscious mind, the fantasies/debaucheries shown in the movies of one generation become reality in next generation. As what is once shocking or bizarre become new normal over a time period.

Hence if you wish to find out the roots of many social ills plaguing the society or changing moral values, you just need to have a closer look at the genre of movies in the previous era or rather movies of the time when adults of today were growing and getting their ideas of society from the movies. In a way, Hollywood or Bollywood of today is the reality of tomorrow. Not that movies always have a negative impact. They have very powerful and positive impacts and a lot of negative ills have been effectively tackled through movies. They impact both ways but as it happens generally debauchery outshines morality by far.

So shall the movies be censored in name of protecting family values and society or they shall be left alone for the sake of freedom of expression? These seem like simple options but both can be complicated and can have a far-reaching impact on society. There are bigger questions involved with relation to freedom, choices, individual freedom, collective good and most important creativity. Paradoxically some times they are aligned and beneficial while some times they are in contrast and dangerous to each other. However, the worst thing which a nation or society can do is to apply and enforce fixed standards to define art and expressions.

These are questions and challenges which do not have straight answers. Graham Greene captured the conundrum in describing Italy and Switzerland. In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

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