Introducing our weekly popular culture critique of the latest news and views from the world of entertainment, fashion and media. This column is meant to be a conversation-starter, as we invite our friends and fans to weigh in and share their own thoughts on the topics we tend to argue and debate about in the StyeCaster offices daily.
In recent weeks, indie darling Zooey Deschanel has been hit with a lot of criticism following the big push for her new primetime Fox comedy. Questions about her love of kittens and ukuleles nosedived into an intense debate about women over the age of 30 “pretending” to be cute, and how this hurts the feminist movement. This backlash seems directly linked to the idea that once a star attempts to not only be real with their fans, but also follow a more mainstream career path, the very people that have often supported them are the same ones to raise their voices in disdain when said celebrity veers way from semi-obscurity.
Much like Fight Club there seems to be unwritten rules indie stars must follow: Dress quirky, hang out with quirky people, live in Brooklyn or the Village (if at all possible), star in movies deemed “critical successes” (i.e. not profitable), and test the waters by co-starring in mainstream films but NEVER EVER attempt to headline a big movie on your own. HBO and Showtime shows are all fine and good too, but cross the line into the Big 3 networks and all bets are off.
It leads me to wonder how audiences will receive Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s latest leading man vehicle, 50/50. As an actor who’s followed a similar career path as Leonardo DiCaprio (both of which made their debuts on primetime situation comedies as teens), their career trajectories have veered away from each other in a rather dramatic way. While DiCaprio has rubbed shoulders with numerous Oscar-winning directors and dated his share of supermodels, Gordon-Levitt has deliberately kept a low-profile, winning critical praise for his roles in flicks like Hesher and 500 Days of Summer, while toying with mainstream acclaim via standout supporting roles in big studio films like Inception.
We all know that DiCaprio is currently hot and heavy with Gossip Girl actress Blake Lively (thanks to tabloid reports from Us Weekly and the like), but with Gordon-Levitt you have to dig a little deeper. While his personal life is mostly off the radar, his pet project hitRECord.org is a collaborative, creative initiative enabling writers, artists and filmmakers to get a foot in the door and make a profit while doing so.
Certainly Gordon-Levitt deserves accolades for his deeply emotional and humorous turn as a young cancer patient struggling to come to grips with his illness, but the question is, will he get it? Curious, we posed this question to him this week to get his take:
“You know, for me I don’t pay as much attention to the budget as much as who’s doing it, what’s the story about,” he stresses. “For me, a movie like 50/50, everyone did it because I loved it and cared about it — that was great. It was just like when we were working on Inception. Everyone was there because they cared. One movie may have a bigger budget than another, but that’s not what matters. The important thing is where is it coming from, what the story is about — the important stuff, you know?”
Obviously an indie star’s success depends predominantly on the investment we as an audience feel they deserve. Should we support them in everything they do, or protect the image we’ve built in our heads of a star we personally identify with, never budging from that fixed vision?
It’s a question that drives home the point that personal identification with our Hollywood heroes can be both a good and bad thing. Much depends on whether you’re the one in front of the cameras or the one sitting at home or in a movie theater watching someone you “think” you know become less of an individual hero and more of a glossy commercial brand.