“Stars are actors whose names become assets in the production of films, and drawing powers in attracting audiences. Four attributes are generally correlated with stardom: looks, age, ability and screen image”.
In this essay I will be exploring the ways in which movie stars have changed the traditional way that we look at them and if the general public/society is to blame for turning actors into a social phenomenon. No longer are they seen as just actors, they have now become icons. There are several different aspects that contribute to this. The main focus during this essay will be on the famous Latina actress Jennifer Lopez. “For many years the leading roles in Hollywood were predominately caucasian. Minor supporting roles as peasant or servants were sometimes awarded to actual Latino actors during the classical Hollywood era.” Identification can play a major role when picking out favourite actors. For some movie goers, they can be drawn into a specific actor because they find something in them that makes them feel like they are seeing their selves on the big screen which ties in with identification. World famous actress, Jennifer Lopez is an example of on-screen identification for many Hispanic people. “Throughout much of US history, Americans of Latino or Hispanic descents were often cordoned off into their own neighbourhoods, discriminated against in the work force, and verbally and physically harassed”.
The American Dream is the idea that all people can have happy and successful lives if they work hard. In a way Jennifer has created the American Dream for herself and has become a flag carrier and representative of the Hispanic community. With this being said; Jennifer is a representative of change in society and is a reflection of people’s hopes and dreams. This could make a majority of the Hispanic people want to constantly support all of her movies and work because whatever she does is a reflection upon them and their whole culture. She is also carrying the flag of all those Latina actresses that came before her and were not recognised in the Hollywood world. “Furthermore, the classical Hollywood practise of casting Anglo actors to play leading Latino roles reveals how race, class, and sexuality were interconnected in 1930s film. When white stars played upper-class Latinos, they were regarded as “nearly white”, and they could form successful romantic relationships with white characters. When white (more infrequently) played peasants or lower-class Latinos, they appeared in darker makeup, and their romances usually end in tragedy.”
Jennifer Lopez has broken down those barriers and became the leading lady for many major films. While many Latino characters in Hollywood films have been treated as racial stereotypes, others seem to be treated as members of an ethnic group assimilating to white. Jennifer Lopez has been given very high-class roles (with the exception of playing a maid in Maid in Manhattan), she often plays a tough and dominate working woman. A good example would be the movie Enough. Jennifer Lopez has also become the star and the face of many romantic comedy films. Although Jennifer Lopez is American through and through, she is also Puerto Rican. Jennifer Lopez has broken many barriers in the film industry by becoming not only one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, but the highest paid Latina in Hollywood ever since she starred in the movie The Wedding Planner. “Star-images have become more than just the image. As Dyer makes clear, they are extensive, they are multimedia, they are intertextual; finally, they have histories that can and do outlive their lives”.
This links in with what Dyer said about how the histories of an actor can outlive their lives. Jennifer Lopez has become a role model for many people especially young girls of any ethnicity but most likely of Latina descent. What she has achieved so far is something that will be discussed for many years. One of the attributes in attracting audiences in cinema is ‘looks’. Evidence shows that audiences are subconsciously drawn to an actor of the same gender or the prettiest actors and actresses on the big screen. For some reason there is something in a few people’s minds that will make them often fantasise about either looking like them or being with them. Attractiveness involves physical attraction as well as 'similarity' or 'affinity' between the symbol being used and the audience's identity. Usually, people respond better to messages coming from people who are members of their own social and ethnic/racial group. This is not due to prejudice as much as it is due to the fact that 'similarity' decreases dissonance or fear of dissonance. In the past, Hollywood’s idea of female beauty would be the Marilyn Monroe types (e.g. blonde hair and blue eyes), often white. Jennifer Lopez has changed the way that Hollywood and society sees beauty. She has created her own type of beauty, almost like she started a revolution. Her type of image as a Puerto Rican woman with the darker skin tone and darker hair was something that was not often seen before as the main female star. And with this comes fascination and admiration.
“It is scarcely a mere coincidence that mostly dark-haired and dark-eyed Latin American women such as Jennifer Lopez have gained stardom in North America. Cameron Diaz, a blonde and blue-eyed Cuban American movie star, is clearly an exception to this rule. The paradigmatic image of Latin womanhood and beauty initially fits within and then further justifies the US constructed stereotype”. In the past it was the studios that literally owned the actors of the big screen but now it all lies in the hands of the star. It is often clear to see that sometimes directors purposely chose Jennifer to be the star of their movies because they know that people will want to watch it more for her image. And also, the directors know what men want to look at so they use this to their advantage because some men look at Jennifer Lopez as being an exotic fantasy. Stars sell films, but their capital exchange value goes further than that of course. Producers will put up money for films that include the latest top star. Stars can attract financial backing for a film that otherwise might not get off the ground.
The role of an actor has changed over time. The public have gone beyond the point of idolizing their work on the big screen to track their every move and treat them as though they are modern day gods. People are not literally following their favourite actors but a vast majority of society is buying the magazines that do follow celebrities. So society is contributing to the excessive nature of ‘celebrity’. In reality, actors are strangers to the rest of the world but some people may feel like they have the permission to know more about them outside of their work because they put themselves out there by being famous so some people feel like they are asking to be noticed and followed. The latest news, gossip and photos depicting the lives of the rich and famous are a very lucrative business and there is a subculture built around celebrity obsessions. Although Jennifer Lopez has worked extremely hard to make it in the movie industry, we often find ourselves more interested in who she is dating or what she is wearing in the latest ‘People Magazine’.
“There’s a craving for knowledge about stars’ personal lives that can never quite be satisfied, because the feeling of real closeness will always elude us. It does no wonder those magazines and TV shows are such big business. And it’s more than just commerce; our relationship with the stars may affect us personally. That we get caught up in these illusory relationships with celebrities may have a lot to do with difficulties in our real relationships”. Jennifer is a prime example of a modern day actress. Meaning she is a public personality, somebody that we want to know all about. Whether that includes her family, her children, her wedding; there is something beyond just her movies that society feels the need to stay up to date with. The average person would never have a glamorous life like Jennifer Lopez and so it is safe to say that many people in society are living life vicariously through these her and other celebrities.
Vicarious enjoyment is one reason we watch movies and TV shows in the first place – for the vivid feelings that we experience in a fictional world. There is a strong power with being a film star these days. More often actors are being approached by big name companies in order to promote their products, also known as celebrity endorsements and once again, we as the public buy into it. The new form of celebrity endorsements is promoting products via their official pages on social networking sites. Just by sending out one tweet telling their followers how great a certain product is it can have as much of an impact if it were said during an advert on the television. According to a 2004 study published in the North American Journal of Psychology, people tend to turn to celebrities to satisfy needs that are not being met in conventional ways.
Actors such as George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez are just a few of the big names that are used for endorsement deals. According to People Magazine, Jennifer Lopez is the most beautiful woman in the world. .These endorsement companies know exactly what they are doing by using these actors knowing that they have a sex appeal to them, so it is more likely to draw people to buy whatever they are selling. It is impossible to know if actors/celebrities actually use the products they promote. Half the time, we don’t even know if the actors/celebrities who are promoting these products are really using them. They may just be using their fans and social status to help out a business with sales. But because our favourite actors told us to buy it, we go out and do what they say. Again, this connects with the illusion of the audience believing that they can have a relationship or friendship with the star from buying things that are connected to them. The more of their stuff you have; the closer you are to the star. “Companies are willing to shell out big bucks to use celebrities to sell their products because they are aware how hungry people are for everything celebrity related. In addition marketers are aware of the instant recognition provided by using this method of promotion. When associated with a product, a popular celebrity can drive sales in different ways. Interestingly, a study done on the effect of celebrity product endorsements shows that there are happy memories associated with certain celebs imprinted in our brain.”
Actors earn more money by doing endorsements than they do in making films. Jennifer Lopez is also a very successful singer and she often sings the songs for the soundtracks for the movies that she stars in. She is a very smart and creative business woman in that aspect because when the public buy her movies on DVD, her fans will also want to buy the soundtrack of the movie. The amount of CDs sold and the royalties of the CD profit will go straight to her. Jennifer Lopez is not just an actress now, she is a brand; A very successful brand. Big name stars sell products but the power dynamic has changed. No longer are they being paid to endorse an already well-established product, now the stars are the ones making the product. Jennifer Lopez endorses Pepsi, L’Oreal & Gillette but at the same time she has a successful perfume line, clothing line and jewellery line. This is a relatively new thing for the stars to be in control of creating their own businesses. Jennifer has a lot of control when it comes to marketing her name and some could say that she more than a triple threat.
Conclusion Overall, society does have a part to play in making actors a social phenomenon. People in society contribute in all the different aspects mentioned throughout this essay. America in particular has allowed entertainment to become a driving force behind the thoughts and actions of its society. Some people have a celebrity obsession and tend to search for their "self" through the movies and for never-ending entertainment in life. As long as society continues to act this way, the more power actors will get over more than just the big screen.