Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Tis A Pity She's A Whore

From this.....
.....to this.
In Restoration England the words actress and prostitute were interchangeable.  Nothing much seems to have changed in the three hundred years or so since then, as every stripper will invoke the title "performer" when discussing their trade. When looked at in those terms there seems very little difference between someone like Sasha Grey, porn star turned mainstream actress, and Natalie Portman, who's "simulated" sex acts in Black Swan won her an Oscar and near universal acclaim.  So, is there really any difference?

I have heard, from time to time, a few actors state that they don't live in Hollywood because they don't wish their children to be exposed to "it".  Exposed to what?  Acting is their trade and, if the environment in which they work is so shameful, should they even be participating in such a profession?  It would be the same as if my father, who was a contractor, kept his children away from construction sites, not out of concern for the obvious dangers of such places but, for fear they would be corrupted by the smell of sawdust and the sight of hard work.  Obviously there is something about the entertainment industry that is a little less than wholesome.

I have long disliked Hollywood, not as conservatives do because of their claim it subverts traditional values, but because Hollywood gives the appearance of being the upholder of free speech, when everyone of sense knows there is nothing free in Hollywood.  The only freedom they fear losing is the freedom to make money, and to make as much as possible producing garbage which they defend under the banner of art.  To participate in any other creative endeavor, to paint, to write a poem, to sing a song, requires very little in terms of material substance.  However, to make a film, or at least a film that has any hope of being noticed, requires millions in both money and man hours behind it, for a movie without an audience is like a stripper without a pole.  It is a Gesamtkunstwerk  that needs to satisfy the monetary demands of many rather than the simple creative desire of an individual.  If the actor merely wished to express him or herself, they could stay home reading monologues, or never range any further than the local community theater, but something in its very nature demands "exposure" in more than one sense, and the tie of art to money has never been a healthy bond.

To return to my initial point, many of these early actresses cum courtesans are very often used as feminist role-models, and rightfully so.  Women like Nell Gwyn and Elizabeth Barry broke the mold for what women could be and do in ages that expected little more from the "fair sex" than to keep house and produce heirs.  Interestingly, Hollywood has treated the lives of both of these women in the films Stage Beauty and The Libertine respectively.

Following in their footsteps, many a young actress today would like to claim an association to these illustrious forebears.  However, they forget such a role was not a desire but a necessity in an age when there were few other options from poverty and perpetual pregnancy.  They represent the fight for a world where women need not use their body's to free their mind's.  Today, that battle won, the modern ingénue appears more than happy to be the whore if they might play the actress.

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