Are Performers Stupid?

Are actors and actresses stupid?

Are performers dumber than normal people?

Like most people, I just assume this is so, because actors tend to say stupid things when not following a script. The actress Meryl Streep took to the stage at some awards show to say Donald Trump gave her the sads. I’ve watched it a few times trying to figure out what it is she was trying to communicate. Streep is a great actress so it was well choreographed, but it contained nothing more than some hyperventilating about imagined bogeymen. My take away from watching it is that Mx. Streep is not spending her free time working math puzzles.

Even more obvious examples were on display at the Waddle in Washington this past weekend. Ashley Judd went on a deranged rant that suggested she needs to be in a nervous hospital again. Madonna of all people was carrying on about respecting women and committing acts of treason. Madonna, like all other performers, degrades herself for a living. Other than being a cautionary tale, she should stay out of any discussion about respecting women. Yet, this was lost on her and her fellow performers.

That brings us back to the original question. Is Madonna stupid? Judd apparently has had a lot of mental problems, but Madonna and Streep have no history of mental illness. Short of handing out IQ tests, there’s no way to know if performers are unusually stupid, but perhaps there are other cognitive traits that performers have in abundance that present as a low IQ when displayed outside the narrow realm of the stage. Quants are super smart, but lack social skills, so they are often assumed to be retarded.

The first thing that springs to mind is that you need a near total absence of self-respect to be a performer. It is, at best, a degrading way to make a living. Anyone who has stood in front of a crowd to give a speech knows it is not as easy as it looks. Imagine standing in front of cameras, pretending to be someone else, while a crowd of people watch you play make believe. Often times, the job requires the performer to make a fool of themselves or do degrading things for the amusement of the crowd. Most people will not do it.

Even if you put limits on how much you will degrade yourself in public in order to be a performer, it is a humiliating road to success. Even the greatest thespians started out as complete hacks, often being laughed at and yelled at for being dreadful on stage. Movie and TV people get their start in terrible shows or making commercials for things like hemorrhoid cream. Then there is the casting couch, which is a feature of the business for both sexes. Male actors spend their youth biting a pillow or something else.

There’s something else that is universal to being a performer and that is a near total inability to judge risk. About one tenth of one percent of people who go into show business end up with a productive career as a performer. Most struggle for years and drop out or go into some other part of the business. New York and Los Angeles restaurants are famously staffed with the next big stars of stage and screen. Going into show business is about as logical as spending your life savings on lottery tickets.

This is probably why performers have money woes and tax problems. Just google actors and tax problems and you get half a million hits. People who are terrible with risk assessment are probably never going to be very good with their money, no matter how much they make. Nicholas Cage has probably earned half a billion dollars in his career and he is broke. People with any sense of risk assessment will not waste their life chasing a dream that is unlikely to materialize, but that’s what it takes to be a star.

Of course, the big key for any performer is their ability to draw attention to themselves over the others, who are also good at getting attention. The world is full of pretty blondes, who know their way around a penis. In order to gain the attention the star makers, you better be really good at standing out in a crowd of beautiful people with the same dream as you. This is why famous performers often have some weird tick or skill. Samuel L. Jackson got famous because he is a living satire of the militant black man.

There’s something else. Performers are much more likely to make it when young than old and young is defined as teens and 20’s. It’s why so many of the top starts are people who literally grew up in the business. Their parents were in the business in some capacity. This means that the typical star is someone who has had little exposure to the world outside acting. Even those who left home and went to Hollywood to become stars as young adults have had little experience with the normal world.

Most Americans have never been to Africa so they only know about the place from books and television. As a result, Americans talking about Africa sound like morons to people who have lived in Africa. This is the problem for performers. They talk about America as if it is a foreign country to them. That’s because it often is a foreign country. How much does Meryl Streep know about America at this stage of her life? She has been cooped up in a museum for decades. Death row inmates have a better feel for America than actors.

That brings us back to where we started. Are performers stupid? The safest answer is yes, they are very stupid. Being stupid makes it easy to not notice the long odds of being a performer. Being stupid lets these people avoid thinking about the moral dilemmas that are inevitable in the business. Those who are not stupid are so divorced from reality that they can no longer apply their intelligence to the normal world as it has become a foreign place for them. This means that most of the stars are both stupid and ignorant, which is why they so often sound like drooling idiots when speaking off-the-cuff.

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nil
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nil

In the ancient world actors and other entertainers had the same social status as beggars or slaves. Not hard to see why.

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James LePore

There’s also the matter of class, which very few of them have. No class and stupid are often found in one “celebrity,” Chelsea Handler for example: http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2017/01/23/chelsea-handler-wont-interview-melania-trump-can-barely-speak-english/

thor47
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thor47

And who is Chelsea Handler that I would care about her thought on anything? Did God go on vacation and leave her in charge?

Member
James LePore

She’s one of the celebrities that this post is about. She regularly reaches and presumably influences millions of people.

thor47
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thor47

Yes, I understand that. The question was rhetorical. After all, I’m here reading zman’s blog, not Chelsea Handler’s. 😉

LetsPlay
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LetsPlay

I must really be lost. I have never heard of this Chelsea.

In Voice
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In Voice

I’ve only seen the name in headlines recently. I assumed it was someone paid to manage Chelsea Clinton and try to keep her from making a fool of herself.

Anchises
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Anchises

On Hollywood’s intelligence level generally (not just actors), recall Herman J. Mankiewicz’s famous telegram to Ben Hecht: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.”

Dr. Mabuse
Guest

Doctor Johnson’s definition of an actor: “A fellow who exhibits himself for a shilling.” I think the whole concept of entertainment “stars” is an antique holdover from the big studio era of movie-making. The studios created the stars, and carefully cultivated their images. “Singing in the Rain” is partly a satire of the way stars were cocooned to keep them from exposing themselves as obnoxious airheads. Nothing but the most elegant behavior and proper sentiments were fed to the press, so that people could believe their beloved stars were also thoughtful, gracious people. The studio system finally broke down in… Read more »

Jim from Boston
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Jim from Boston

Probably well over 90% of what we now see in movies and on TV shows is ‘faked’, as different shots and a background are mashed together electronically in what we view. This practice is much more apparent nowadays with the advent of high-definition screens.

Actors think that their computer-generated alt-reality IS reality, and that imagery is all that matters.

thor47
Guest
thor47

Why are the best actors and actresses so good? My take is that because, at the very bottom, where you and I are someone, they are not. They have no basic personality; they are not really anybody. So they can become whatever the character is required to be on film or on stage. Being stupid goes long with this. As for Madonna, she has been mentally ill from day one. We would only have questions about her if she started showing signs of normalcy.

Member

Once again you drill down to the heart of the matter, and give me my morning laugh. Well done, ZMan!

Harvey
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Harvey

I would agree with everything said. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for movie stars making the jump to politics….

Member

Everyone wants to be someone, even when they are not, Probably most of all when they are nobody.

Tim
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Tim

What’s odd is why people like Streep don’t hire writers to trail along after them in real life and feed them their lines. Hollywood writers are cheap, 500 in a roll. People like Streep are rich….hire a roll of writers and appear smart.
Tim

alzaebo
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alzaebo

There’s a science fiction story in that idea.

A.T. Tapman (Merica)
Member
A.T. Tapman (Merica)

I recall how hard I laughed when Barbra (the beak) Streisand rolled out her personal “Foreign Policy Adviser” Upon what meat does she sup?

Doug
Guest
Doug

Stupid? Ya the kind of psychotic stupid you can’t fix. They are legends not only on the screen but in their own minds. Narcissism has to be a component of their sociopathic tendencies. Legends in their own minds as living myths built on a foundation of disingenuousness and moral perversion as an admirable attribute within their make believe world. After all, they are actors. It is a self appreciation club, where the customers who provide their mind blowing income are the enemy. Like the political class, no different, it is oligarchy and your not invited, but your paying for it.… Read more »

Drake
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Drake

There is another problem with performers. Most have never been what we would call “middle class” a single day in their lives. They start out poor – playing gigs at bars or waiting tables to earn enough to eat. Then, the lucky and talented <1% get a big break and rocket to the top. Suddenly that dirt poor idiot is a now a millionaire idiot. S/he never spent years working towards a promotion, saving for a car, paying a mortgage, trying to balance work and family, etc… They skipped it all. The idea of such a person lecturing me on… Read more »

Member

How about the likes of James Woods?

Kris Kristofferson?

Dolph Lundgren?

Jodie Foster?

Upon what basis would any person capable of ratiocinating deem the above to be idiots or stupid?

Drake
Guest
Drake

My main point was that most of them have not experienced anything like middle class life as adults. There are of course exceptions to that observation and some exceptions who are not stupid.

Kris Kristofferson is most certainly an exception on both counts as he was an Army Officer and helicopter pilot (where stupidity = death) before pursuing a music career.

kokor hekkus
Guest
kokor hekkus

Based on my experiences, I would say that successful performers are of reasonable intelligence, with an occasional James Woods, who is extremely intelligent. But they are usually poorly educated, extremely insecure because you are no better than your last performance, fearful of aging, and accustomed to venting their emotions on the set. Many, including Marilyn Monroe, have serious problems of identity. The clever and grounded ones, like Woods, Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, and Arnold, save their money, are very wealthy, and skew strongly conservative.

LetsPlay
Member
LetsPlay

Yes! The answer by and large is a resounding YES! Most of these people, with the exception of musicians who have song writing and musical talents, are like trained monkeys. They are told by their Directors what to do, how to do it and when to do it. It is the rare exception to see an Actor who has the chops to improvise and give performances that people can fully absorb and forget who is portraying the subject. On the subject of the “performances” at the marches, it was interesting to see these “actors” reading from a script. Wow! Such… Read more »

thor47
Guest
thor47

Speaking of musicians, Brian May, guitarist for Queen, has a PhD in astrophysics.

Crispin
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Crispin

Which is why Mr. May is playing that guitar rather than driving a cab with all the other astrophysics PhDs
🙂

Severian
Guest

They also lack a fixed identity. That’s what makes Leftism so appealing — whatever you are today (and we all know that the Party Line changes daily), you are with all your heart and soul, and spouting today’s catechism makes you not just a good person, but the best person that could ever possibly be. A word in their defense, though: People think you are who you pretend to be. This happens even with bush-league performers like teachers – I have former students who are convinced I’m a liberal, a conservative, a Communist, a Nazi, a union organizer, gay, straight,… Read more »

Dutch
Guest
Dutch

Actors are good at acting. Why success at acting would equip them with valuable insights on any other subject is very puzzling. As has been repeatedly pointed out by Zman and the commentariat, many, if not most, actors have no real family life or substantial normal human experience worth mentioning. Which is why, in my experience, meeting actors in person has been a depressing and eye-opening experience. Away from the script, there is nothing there. Nobody’s home. Just like many race car drivers and pilots, they are absorbed in their craft, and the rest of human experience gets pushed to… Read more »

SamlAdams
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SamlAdams

My observational cohort consists of the ones I went to college with, several of whom are household names. The ones that became famous were not stupid (couldn’t have gotten into the school), but elements of their education were very narrow. Actually admired the serious theater majors– most were in class, rehearsal or studying close to 18 hours per day. But as a result they socialized mostly with each other, took very few classes outside the major and did live in a bubble of sorts. Post graduation, really the same thing. If you wanted to succeed at acting there was little… Read more »

txjohn
Guest
txjohn

Similar in many ways to musicians who opine at length from their stage about all things “social justice” instead of making the music for which they are being paid handsomely.

George Orwell
Guest
George Orwell

Just another fine post from Zman. Leaning off-topic (sorry), while we speak of performers, let’s not leave out our punditocracy. Especially enlightening has been the unmasking of so many Responsible, Principled Conservative talking heads on TV, radio and online. The Trump phenomenon has shown vast segments of them to be nothing but bad actors and showboaters. How many of the Never Trumpers have, to this day, remained utterly oblivious to their failure at prediction and analysis? It’s new talent outside of the elites, like Zman, that brings intelligent thought in this era. How many well-remunerated pundits have found it impossible… Read more »

Dutch
Guest
Dutch

I am taking a wild guess here, but my impression is that Zman treats this site (at least so far) as a form of entertainment and intellectual stimulation, rather than as a paycheck, which makes all the difference. Most of the people George Orwell mentions strike me as people who do the work for a paycheck. This means that they are constantly monitoring which way the wind is blowing, and trying to position themselves to keep the pay checks coming, which has almost nothing to do with what they really might believe, or any relationship to some sort of underlying… Read more »

George Orwell
Guest
George Orwell

Absolutely. Many (but certainly not all) of our talking heads on both the Left and Right who are lucky enough to be on TV or radio know very well that Career Comes First. By the same token, it’s hard to understand why so many of them on the Right cannot sense the wind blowing in the direction of Trump. Heaven only knows what sort of errant drafts now breeze down the dingy hallways of the National Review.

George Orwell
Guest
George Orwell

I would add it’s perilous to ascribe motives to others, however. Perhaps a given talking head espouses X on air or online, yet personally believes Y. There is no way to prove this. Someone can even state their motives yet merely be lying about them.

What is more puzzling is how stupendously wrong so many of our pundits were about 2016, and how few of them have either acknowledged it or expressed a change in their thinking to address their past misapprehensions.

Dutch
Guest
Dutch

The failure to move towards Trump puzzles me, too. I am watching Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell reluctantly shuffle a bit in Trump’s direction lately. Perhaps the media higher-ups have made it abundantly clear that they will brook no opposition to their party line from their foot soldiers. Off topic a bit, but it is fascinating to watch Trump divide the private sector unions from their own leadership (Trumka), and also it looks like the private sector unions are going to be pitted against the public sector unions. Trump is a master at skills many can’t even identify. Gives new… Read more »

alzaebo
Guest
alzaebo

The Left Mainstream has thrown away the proletariat- white male laborers- and is marketing to raw numbers- nonWesterners, nonwhites, and women.

Trump is a master. Soon we’ll question why these diddy bints are holding us and our country hostage.

I actually laughed out loud hearing the uber-cuck, Medved, guide us through our dire future.

Zman’s next piece should be on the intelligence of our revered legislators.
So august! Comedy gold.

Ripple
Guest
Ripple

Actually, RS McCain freely admitted his error. He is one of our most pointed critics of modern feminism, and a mensch.

George Orwell
Guest
George Orwell

Ah, I stand corrected. I looked after the election but must have missed it. Good on you, RSM.

Solomon Honeypickle IV
Guest
Solomon Honeypickle IV

If you get Trump wrong to start with, like McCain, then your opinion on anything aint worth $0.02. Even if you “come around”. He might be a good guy, but he isn’t worth reading.

Wayne Parker
Guest
Wayne Parker

I can tell you from extensive personal experience that you truly nailed it today. I attended law school at the University of Southern California and 70% of my classmates were 21-23 year old kids who grew up in the “90210” (or nearby) and had parents who worked in the entertainment sector. I have a good friend who is a stand-up comedian/wannabe actress who I met when I lived in NYC and we’ve been good friends for years now. EVERYTHING you wrote above matches my observations of those who work in and around the entertainment and sports industry. Stand-up comedians as… Read more »

DiogenesLamp
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DiogenesLamp

In the 19th century, “actors” were generally disdained. They were considered sleazy and immoral, and only fit to associate with drunks, gamblers and whores. Then Thomas Edison made them rich and influential. Instead of audience sizes in the hundreds or few thousands, they could now reach audiences of millions, with commensurate compensation. With Edison’s invention they acquired wealth and influence. They and the core of their industry were still sleazy and immoral, but now they had the means to indulge themselves and make society indulge them also. And here we are today.

Member

Back in film school, one of my professors — a long-time industry vet — liked to say that actors and actresses were basically just “beautiful children,” and if you were smart, that’s how you should treat them. They live in a beautiful make-believe world, he said, and that’s why they’re so good at what they do. But as lovely as their world may look from the outside, you (meaning us aspiring filmmakers) really can’t join them there unless you’re prepared to give up on being a serious grown-up.

Dutch
Guest
Dutch

And our educational system works to make sure that all of their graduates live their lives as “children”, the “beautiful” part being optional.

Dan Kurt
Member
Dan Kurt

In the mid 1970s I had a friend who experienced dozens and dozens of young stars to be. He had been a cosmetic dentist who capped the teeth of aspiring movie stars. When he finished dental school he had a job for more than two years at a clinic that fixed the teeth of these aspirants who were in the Studio System. This was in the late 1950s. At a cocktail party he told a group of us his story. Many had heard it before and egged him on to tell it. This is what I recall. The Dentist said… Read more »

Member

The ancient Romans of the republican era would not allow actors or performances within the city. The famous Roman theaters were built just outside the walls of the city during the republican era. When the Aurelian wall was built, it incorporated the theater district. But by that time society had become so decadent it made no difference.

michael x.
Guest
michael x.

I think Theodore Dalrymple was on to something when he said: “Actors who spend their lives imitating others are unlikely to have firm principles or even personalities of their own.” That part of the quote: “or even personalities of their own” is telling. Actors spend their whole life looking for a persona to temporarily inhabit. Some, it is recorded, even spend an entire movie shoot “in character.” Unemployed actors are always on the lookout for their next fix: another persona to wear between movie roles. They can often be seen at political rallies. You know the ones: loudmouth idiots, full… Read more »

Loos End
Guest
Loos End

ZMan – Thank you! I’ve been silently enjoying your blog like no other for almost a year, but I’ve made it a point to keep a very low online profile for many reasons. Today’s column compelled me to finally chime in. Are Performers Stupid? I don’t know if the word is stupid – many of them are…but to me the prime traits and worst traits of the actors I’ve worked with include a deadly combination of narcissism and estrogen (including the men). I’m a playwright – but neither a feminist nor a progressive – so clearly, I’m not getting much… Read more »

Doug
Guest
Doug

In 1918 Russia, leftist Bolsheviks conducted a campaign of murder so vast and depraved that media and entertainment organs committed themselves to forever shielding the public from its horror. The Red Terror was a starburst of logical conclusion liberalism that has persistently evaded capture in American museum dedications and feature films.
from https://kakistocracyblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/literal-obliviousness/

alzaebo
Guest
alzaebo

And still shielding themselves today, I see.
From that time to this. Lampshades and soap!

newrouter
Guest
newrouter

ot

over here:

Kate Bush Cloudbusting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRHA9W-zExQ

newrouter
Guest
newrouter

It Started Raining the Moment Donald Trump Was Inaugurated President

http://time.com/4641165/donald-trump-inauguration-rain/

MMinLamesa
Guest
MMinLamesa

You could substitute the Sunday morning pontificators for actors in your piece Z and it would be essentially the same. Clueless George Will and Bill Kristol come immediately to mind.

Craig Austin
Guest
Craig Austin

An actors most important gift is the ability to lie convincingly, to fake any emotion and do it well. They can make you believe them even in unbelievable situations, Merryl isn’t intelligent, but she has played an intelligent person convincingly in film, she lacks the intelligence to realize the difference.

Member

The first person I heard make this point was Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
He was talking with Truman Capote, and he made the point that actors and actresses are dumb.
Capote said, “Well, Jill St. John is smart!” (St. John reportedly had an IQ of 162)
Carson replied “And she’s a lousy actress!”

The Usual Suspect
Guest
The Usual Suspect

Well yes, Truman Capote said so, and directly, on the Johnny Carson tonight show. Capote said all actors are stupid and even named names. He said, ” look at Marlon Brando he’s stupid” and Johnny almost swallowed his tongue. Carson tried to smooth over Capote’s comment. Carson said “look at (giving an actress’s name) she’s smart.” Without missing a beat Truman replied “that true she’s smart but she’s a lousy actress”

bluebird of bitterness
Guest

I wonder if one reason most actresses seem like idiots is their diets. An actress can’t hope to get good roles if she’s larger than about a size two, and for most women, staying that thin means a near-starvation diet. Could nutritional deficiencies be starving their brains and making them stupid?

J. Alexander Maximilian
Guest
J. Alexander Maximilian

They’re stupid people with an unusual amount of narcissistic based drives for popularity.