Movie Stars, as we’ve come to know them, no longer exist. They simply no longer exist. Oh sure, movie stars are still alive, from Debbie Reynolds to Robert Redford to Brad Pitt, but they are the last of an entire civilization that has since gone with the wind. 15-minute celebrity culture has gouged this once untouchable kingdom of smoke-and-mirror majesty and has left it hemorrhaging. The younger generation now define “celebrity” not with exclusion, but inclusion. Warhol was right. Anyone can be a celebrity. Nothing is truly unattainable. YouTube vids, internet memes, blogs, twitter profiles– we live in a world where any average Joe or Jane on the street has the potential of becoming the next “big thing”, literally overnight. And, more often than not, the spotlight fades just as suddenly as it shone. (Antoine Dodson, anyone?) This fact has completely relegated the role of the “movie star” in our society to the annals of history. Audiences no longer flock to the movie theaters on Friday nights to see their favorite star on the big screen. They flock to see their favorite franchises, absolutely, and the stars of those films might have cult followers and make regular appearances at the grocery check-out newsstands… but “star power” no longer fuels the box office. (Twi-Hards might argue this, but let’s be honest: ANY attractive young actor could have been placed in those lead roles and the money would have rolled in. As much as you may love your little Robert Pattinson, you’re buying the ticket because of the franchise.)
So in this rapidly changing 21st Century of ours, why is it important to even care about “movie stars” if the society that created them is crumbling?
Because movie stars are so deeply a part of 20th century culture it would be as unthinkable not to refeclt on their cultural significance as it would be not to recognize the importance of, say, the Elizabethans in the history of Western literature. This is not hyperbole. This is a sociological fact. (How can one possible imagine the 20th century without the fantasy of the movie star, anymore than one can imagine literature with out that singular creative revolution of the 16th century?) When art form transcends its boundaries to become part of the fabric of our very being, then it is worth recognizing, exploring and appreciating.
Such is absolutely the case with the 20th century movie star. The further away we get from that ne’er to be repeated time in human history, the more we can, objectively, realize how special this phenomena of “movie stardom” really was. The movie star manifested everything we wanted: the beauty, the wit, the humor, the adventure, and the romance of life that the everyday working stiff could rarely enjoy. And the good ones– the really good ones– accomplished the unthinkable: They made us believe.
For the entire month of August, just as it has every summer for the past 10 years, Turner Classic Movies will salute a movie star with a marathon of their work– all day everyday.– with “Summer Under the Stars“. This very special month of programming has become a highly popular tradition that catapults movie fans over the rainbow and straight into a celluloid Oz. (And is one of the core reasons movie fans have rallied around the venerable cable network with unprecedented loyalty and passion: they network “gets” its audience and knows exactly how to deliver the goods.) In honor of the occasion, the beloved blog Sittin’ On a Backyard Fence, is hosting the much-anticipated Summer Under the Stars Blogathon. The Fence’s owner, razor-sharp movie maven Jill Blake (on Twitter @biscuitkittens), has partnered up with another ace film blogger, Michael Nazarewycz (on Twitter @scribehard), and they are inviting movie-loving bloggers from all over the world to band together and share their personal reflections about the stars in this year’s TCM Summer Under the Stars lineup. This is going to be a top hat-tipping celebration of all things celluloid, bringing in the best writers on the blogosphere, and I hope you’ll all take some time out to enjoy! (If you’re not already participating yourselves!)