I have truly failed this writing-every-Tuesday thing. I mean, it's Wednesday, and it's been weeks and weeks. But I'm still here! (existential shout out)
Speaking of shout outs, I've been thinking a lot recently, actually for quite a few years - since I began studying art and writing about art, really - about the performative nature of us humans. Stick with me here. I'll try not to go all crazy philosoraptor on you. Just a few thoughts about Shia LeBeouf, metamodernist, from Lindsey, Christian and existentialist.
I'm really into pop culture, particularly the phenomena of mainstream and celebrity and how the two relate to the world. And you probably already know about Shia LeBeouf and his seemingly bombastic plagiarism-apology stunts via paper bags and skywriting and performance art. There's also a guide to the apparent decline of Shia Labeouf if you want full Huffpost coverage of how he went from Louis to loony, so they say.
Obviously, the interweb has been TOW UP about all of this, with reactions from the idiotic-at-best Perez Hilton website - Shia LaBeouf's #IAMSORRY Performance Art Was Infiltrated By Some Dude With A Camera & The Result Is As Awkward As A Penis Cam!! - to Fox News declaring him "super strange" to Buzzfeed stating the obvious: how awkward this all has gotten. And us, deciding if it (and his performance art, or whatever) is meaningless, just plain silly or the topic of mind-shaping, regular conversation.
First, let's explore this metamodernist business. Some of my favorites in cinema and television are dubbed metamodernist. Wes Anderson; Dan Harmon (writer/creator of Community, you may have heard of it); and Comedy Bang! Bang! So keep those in mind as we move into what the heck metamodernism means. According to Metamodernist Manifesto by Shia Labeouf, we move forward to knowledge and understanding of, well, life through the oscillation between wanting universal truths and knowing there is subjectivity that sways between hope and doubt, building and deconstruction, and, in my opinion, a person and their actions and a person and their intentions. As Shia supposedly puts it, the movement between the two positions propels the world into action. What this action is I don't know, and it's probably subjective, ha. So many people think his recent behavior is just weird. I think it's brilliant because of the educational stir it's created.
Here's one question: why is weird so weird, and is it weirder when an actor or artist does it so visibly? Weird is relatively "different" than the norm, but this depends on what your normal reality is. I mean, Miley's reality is totally different than yours, I'm hoping. I find it weirder when what's weird is instantaneously decided by bias (*cough* the media) or ignorance and/or lack of knowledge. I'm guilty of submitting to all three.
A few days ago, James Franco stepped in with an op-ed in the New York Times about Shia's recent performance art exhibit. He made a few interesting points.
Though Mr. LaBeouf apologized on Twitter, conceding that he had "neglected to follow proper accreditation," it turned out that the apology itself appropriated someone else's writing. Was that clever or pathological?
Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona. But because film actors typically experience fame in greater measure, our personas can feel at the mercy of forces far beyond our control.
It might sound a little like a whine or a plea for empathy, but who would we be if we didn't try to understand? I suppose you wouldn't be metamodernist, but I guess you might not be empathetic, which is so often a prominent characteristic of idiocy. And here's where peeps are like, "WTF Lindsey. These people are ACTORS. They make MILLIONS of dollars. They CHOOSE to be in the public eye. Why should we care about their woes or apologies or performance art when they have MILLIONS and go to A-list parties and get a front row seat at the best shows and GET ARRESTED OR PLAGIARIZE WITHOUT LOSING THEIR CAREER and drink booze and party with Meryl Streep?
All valid points. But I can't help thinking, each night before I fall asleep, that every human being also has to fall asleep and feel the weight of their day, flicker open their eyes and get ready for work the next day - put on a face and hunker down to make a living. Not to say that there isn't a divide in how easy it might be to fall asleep in the comfort of one's own cash, but there's always a price. You've heard this, but you know it's true! My dad always says, "everybody sleeps."
Existentialism rears it's little head and tells us about the philosophy that begins with not just the thinking subject but the HUMAN subject, an acting, feeling, living human that needs sleep. Maybe Shia needs some sleep.
No, I don't know Shia LaBeouf the human, but I might know a little about Shia the thinking subject (in public sight), if only for his comic genius on Even Stevens and his transition to adult(film)hood in Nymphomaniac.
Maybe all this existential questioning and metamodernism pressure is really starting to visibly (it's always been there, just a little less visible) cave in on our culture via the dastardly interweb, where the young and lime lit have one or more of many things befall them. A few being:
1. The opportunity to write a New York frickin' Times article of concern about a fellow actors performance art and/or Hollywood mental breakdown.
2. A need for sexual/drug-related/other-things-related rebellion to make their public images completely bonkers so everyone knows they are living outside the box (literally and figuratively).
3. A loss of all mental capacity due to stalkers that take lots of pictures.
4. Punching people that stalk you everyday so people can continue to criticize your every move at the supermarket.
5. Performance art.
Participating in this call and response is a kind of critique, a way to show up the media by allowing their oversize responses to essentially trivial actions to reveal the emptiness of their raison d'etre. Believe me, this game of peek-a-boo can be very addictive.
Mr. LaBeouf has been acting since he was a child, and often an actor's need to tear down the public creation that constrains him occurs during the transition from young man to adult. I think Mr. LaBeouf's project, if it is a project, is a worthy one. I just hope that he is careful not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist.
Not to lift up Shia or James or the New York Times, for that matter, but it really gets me to thinking about how I relate this back to that thing I mentioned earlier, my experience of the world and how I interact with it. I critique things everyday by way of acting. Not in the same way. I use multiple devices to cover up the touchy-feelies or my reactions to criticism. I'm probably using some of them right now as I type this. You've felt like a performer, right? Like at prom when you were forced to wear a dress and cakey makeup or wear a suit that made you sweat bullets on the dance floor, making the gym smell like...gym. No? Well, consider what equates to the media in your life. What gets you all filtered up?
And now you're like, Lindsey, just let it go. I'm just writing, boo. We'll never know it all, what with the wish-wash of this metamodernism. And we want to know and be known, an existentialist, an individual. We want to be heard and loved while our minds are twisted to and fro. And I'm saying now, if Shia the plagiarist or you, neither greater or less than anyone else, walked into this room, I wouldn't discount the person if s/he needed love. Call me crazy, but you and I know that humanity is what's really tow up. That doesn't mean that philosoraptor here can't say all the haters need a chill pill. And some universal truth:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you. - Ephesians 4:32