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Just to drive home the point that I read People magazine and pretty much only People magazine lately, I clipped out the Chatter section that contained Amanda Seyfried’s thoughts on Twitter.  It is, you should know, her biggest pet peeve.  More than people protesting at funerals or people who drive twenty miles below the speed limit with their coat belt dangling outside their car door or people who use up the last of the sugar and then don’t put it on the shopping list therefore screwing up your baking plans.

Seyfried says,

Twitter drives me mad.  It’s just to be nosy.  For an actor, I don’t think it’s a good idea for an audience to know you too well.

I’m not going to point out to Seyfried how easily avoidable her pet peeve is (I mean, all she needs to do is not go on Twitter and she can apparently live a stress-free life sans her major annoyance), but I do think she raises an interesting point.

Part of being an actor — or really, any type of performer — is to make the viewer believe you are the character.  The audience shouldn’t be distracted from the performance by thinking about how you’re just pretending and reciting lines.

So does Twitter do that?  Does interacting with an actor online change the way you view their performance?  Do you see the seams, so to speak?  You may know information about an actor’s personal life from a magazine article, but everything other than a direct pipeline of personal thoughts (a la Twitter) or direct interaction (such as meeting the performer or speaking to them via email) is pretty much two dimensional.

I certainly feel that way with actors I know (as in, we see each other socially in the face-to-face world).  It’s hard for me to watch them on stage or screen and not see that they’re acting.

I have to admit that I stopped following a musician’s Twitter feed because I thought — based on his song lyrics — that he was a smart guy.  The punctuation errors and spelling errors in his Twitter feed made me uncomfortable — first and foremost, reminding me unpleasantly of an ex-boyfriend, but secondly, changing the way I was listening to his music.  It’s not mutually exclusive — you can have a brilliant mind and be a terrible speller.  But it bothered me enough to stop following him so I could enjoy the music without having the musician ruin the false image I had mentally created for him.

At the same time, meeting or interacting with a performer (or writer) often makes me more interested in their work.  Being able to ask a question via email or Twitter can make the difference between whether I listen to their music or watch their film or read their book OR whether I walk on by.  Shaking the President’s hand pretty much ensured that I’ll get involved with his campaign for re-election.  Get a book signed and I’ll pretty much read the next two or three books the writer puts out regardless of whether I speak to them again.

Why does the autograph have that power?  The simple signing of a name (or an email, or the ability to @ them on a tweet), can make all the difference in whether I’m engaged or not.  So how can it be both a good thing and bad thing — destroying the 4th wall that needs to exist between the performer and the audience AND the element that ensures that the audience returns?

In the same way that taking a photograph of someone you don’t really know has the same power?  I am more likely to go back and see the Sklar Brothers again because of that picture.

I have the opportunity today to get the autograph of someone whose work I really admire.  It would mean waiting around after an event and perhaps missing out on doing something more fun with that time beyond milling about for a half hour in order to gain 30 seconds of connection. 

What do you think I should do?  Wait for the autograph?  Stand there somewhat creepily and snap a picture silently?  Or simply walk on by, still enjoying the art and not having the connection? But being okay with that because those sort of moments are Amanda Seyfried’s pet peeve.


1 N { 04.17.11 at 8:30 am }

Me, I’d probably wait around. I love that interaction, as small and fleeting as it may be for them. In terms of actors, I used to, once upon a time, aspire to be one, and I pretty much always see characters as an actor, acting, so hearing things from them or meeting them or what have you doesn’t change much for me. I remember that, once upon a time, there was an actor I love who wasn’t in a great place, and so did some really assy thing and treated people not so nicely, and one woman swore that she could never watch the show he was on anymore. Which just baffled me.

I suppose it’s along the lines of: if I find out more about them, and they’re awesome, then that enhances it for me. If they’re not, then I’m not really in any a difference place than I was. Aside from occasionally being able to turn to the person watching next to me and say, “wow, it’s a shame he’s such an ass.”

(I will admit to not following/un-following folks who use a lot of exclamation points, or talk on twitter the way that I hate, that text-ing-ish OMG!!! way that dumbs you down whether you’re dumb or not. But that’s for my own sanity, and not a judgment call on my part, if that makes any sense. I can love somebody’s work, but they may not necessarily be the type of person I want to hang out with, even if it’s just hanging out on twitter.)

2 Heather { 04.17.11 at 10:08 am }

I sort of feel like Twitter is just a constant running conversation with a whole bunch of people. I don’t really judge too much. I don’t particularly enjoy the bad grammar or spelling, but not everyone is well educated either. I also don’t care too much for following popular actors or musicians (except Alfie Boe who I am in love with—swoon!), because I’d rather keep my conversations with my “friends.” Like you..Neil…the IF posse. 😉

3 tash { 04.17.11 at 11:01 am }

My mom just recently sent me a box of crap from my old room at home and in it were a bunch of autographs I got as a kid: Marcel Marceau, Jean Pierre Rampal, Itzhak Perlman, Ricardo Muti (I got to hold his baton while he signed my program!), etc., etc, etc. (I was a classical violinist. Hence the geeky trend.) And it was kinda cool to flip back through them and also kinda cool because I thought to myself, I’d never do this now. I watched my daughter get all nervous and excited to meet a pro sports person she loves and have him sign her jersey and I was just so goofy over the moon for her. I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or just a “I really don’t have time anymore, I’d rather shower” thing, but I guess I’m . . . . over it? That said, I can still get really giddy for others who do have these moments. Like you meeting the prez. And if I happened to bump into someone famous, depending on who they were, I may ask for something to remember the encounter. Like having you sign a book.

This also reminded me: My husband and I used to play the free pass game (you know, pick a hot celebrity you’d sleep with if I gave you a free pass) (oddly, we don’t do this anymore either) (would rather sleep) but often our qualifier was, “Do I need to *talk* to them?”

4 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 04.17.11 at 11:20 am }

The difference between actors and writers on Twitter is that it doesn’t destroy any illusions for a writer to be himself. Though with some of the most famous actors on Twitter — Ashton comes to mind — their non-Twitter persona is also so public that it’s hard to see them as a character instead of as themselves.

I wouldn’t wait around for an autograph, but I might for the photo or the interaction. Every time I’ve done an after-the-show thing it’s been because the person I was with wanted or needed to, but each one turned out to be memorable. The only one where I was just someone in the crowd, one of my all-time favorite musicians had a genuine conversation with us for that 3 minutes. For all of the others I can remember, the person I was with had a connection to the performer, and so I got glimpses into the real person rather than just the meet-and-greet performer. There’s the performer on stage, and there’s the public persona off stage, and then there’s the private real person off stage. The private one is really neat to see (well, not always I suppose, but I’ve always had good experiences) but it’s not typically something that you’d get after waiting in line for an autograph.

Although… I can think of one instance where I had a view that was too inside. My friend’s husband has an amazing on-stage presence and amazing off-stage public persona but the behind the scenes real person is hit or miss. He was particularly grumpy the time that he woke up from a nap and wandered out in his underpants and stumbled into the living room and there I was. Though not at all embarrassed about the underpants part.

5 HereWeGoAJen { 04.17.11 at 12:02 pm }

I don’t care so much about the autograph, but the interaction might be interesting. My vote is that you should do it if you think it would make a good post for us to read. (Yes, you should plan your day around entertaining me.)

6 a { 04.17.11 at 12:41 pm }

I’ve never gotten into the whole autograph (or even celebrity) fascination thing. I think it’s just part of my inability to make small talk with people I don’t know. I also don’t figure that anyone cares what I thought about their last performance(s).

7 It Is What It Is { 04.17.11 at 4:34 pm }

First, who is Amanda Seyfried?

Second, as someone who lives in La-La-Land and has grown up around actors (as friends of the family, or filming at my school, or later on in meeting them on a studio lot while I was there on business), I don’t get the autograph and not in this day and age of instant capture mediums. I think the interaction will be much more profound if you don’t focus on the the autograph but definitely DO get a picture to commemorate the meeting.

8 Queenie { 04.17.11 at 5:17 pm }

I’m with A-I don’t get our celebrity culture, and have no interest in autographs. They’re just people who are successful at their jobs (and sometimes not very good at what theydo!). No one asks the first grade teacher for her autograph, and she arguably adds a whole lot more value to society. I would do whatever is going to make YOU happiest, though. To each his own! Although, life is made out of happy moments with those you love, and why waste those?

On Twitter: ARE you seeing the “real” actor? I’m willing to bet many/most carefully manage their twitter image just like every other aspect of their career. I’ll bet a fair number are using pr folks to write their tweets.

9 Orodemniades { 04.18.11 at 7:17 pm }

I don’t do Twitter, but lately I feel like some of my heretofore favored genre authors are Doing Bad Things by making their opinions known about real world people. Like Muslims (Elizabeth Moon), non-Mormons (Orson Scott Card), and general wtf-ery (Sheri S Tepper)(I know!). I refused to read the article about whatever it was Lois McMaster Bujold said – I know, the reading equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and going LALALALAICANTHEARYOU.

As for autographs, I generally don’t do them – but somewhere I do have Andre Norton’s signature!!! Wish I could remember what book it’s in… :-/

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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