Friday, August 30, 2013

An Old Problem

There has been much said this last week over how the latest Disney child star has turned from a model of probity into a model of depravity. A little history would lead us to expect as much. Miley Cyrus is not really very different from Lindsay Lohan, or Vanessa Hudgens, or Jessica Simpson, or Keira Knightley, or Justin Timberlake, or Britany Spears, or Christina Aguilera, and others could be named (all products of the Disney machine). The tradition goes back to the first Disney child mega-star, Hayley Mills, whose immoral behavior after she left Disney caused a minor scandal back in the 1960s.

A longer view of history would not change our expectations. Actors and actresses have historically had a reputation of very low morals. I'll skip over recent history to a more ancient time.

Remember that the Greek word for actors is ὑποκριταί, whence the English hypocrite. When Jesus wanted to insult the Pharisees, he called them actors (Matthew 23). This is an insult on several levels:
  1. Actors pretend to be something that they are not. They do one thing on stage (or screen) and another in private life. This is the hypocrite theme that Jesus stresses in his specific examples. One way to look at the profession is that an actor is a professional hypocrite.

  2. Actors had a reputation, even then, of low morals, while the Pharisees cultivated a reputation of high morals.

  3. Actors and the theater were largely used in plays promoted by Gentiles. The Pharisees saw themselves as being anti-Gentile.
So, to be an actor has a long history of ill-repute. We should not be surprised that modern counterparts live up to the same low standards of their predecessors. Perhaps the principle difference is that while those in the more recent past had their vices, they tended not to flaunt them.