Breaking The Fourth Wall: Social Media and Changing Perceptions of Stars

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Social media for film stars is a double-edged sword to say the least. If used in the right way, this revolutionary tool can ensure they are never far from people’s thoughts. One click of a ‘follow’ button and they’re in your peripheral every day and it is therefore near impossible for them to fade into irrelevancy. This means of surveillance can ‘make’ a stars career and keep them connected and increasingly exposed to millions of adoring fans. On the other hand, one wrong click or impulsive status means their career is irrevocably broken, and will never be the same again. By increasing their social media presence, stars become more vulnerable to its permanent and unforgiving gaze, where every little action is magnified to the extremes. With the glory and destruction social media brings to stars, is it really worth the risk?

Some might say that social media has changed celebrity culture for the better. Before, there was a strict ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. The celebrities would live this elusive and extravagent lifestyle that is so far removed from our own, we might find it hard to consider them genuine or relatable. After all, what can we possibly have in common with multi-millionaires who star in blockbuster after blockbuster? The best achievement social media has had for stars is breaking down the divisions and barriers between the celebrities and the fans. By giving us snapshots of their daily lives, from the mundane to the amazing, we feel less like fans, and more like friends. We get a sense of intimacy that cannot be replicated in glossy interviews or red carpet appearances.

By having this insight into these celebrities innermost thoughts and feelings, we are able to humanise them to an extent and admire them not only for their talents, but also their personal qualities. We are able to see that celebrities are three-dimensional beings and not just shallow and vapid people who know when to smile on cue. Take Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman as examples. They know exactly how to use social media in the right way, striking the perfect balance between hilarious instagrams and tweets whilst not allowing us to invade their privacy and there is subsequently no doubt that their well-loved online presence has significantly helped the continued success of the likes of Deadpool and The Greatest Showman.

But when you get to know somebody on an intimate level, it is often said that you know them ‘warts and all’. By this, we mean that we understand that this person we know intimately has flaws and misgivings, and that they’re far from perfect. But, that’s okay because the good outweighs the bad and we love them anyway. This is perfectly fine when it comes to a personal relationship with someone, but when we consider how social media misuse has destroyed the career of celebrities like James Gunn and Kevin Hart, one could argue that celebrities cannot afford to be loved ‘warts and all’. In order to survive life in the public eye, their persona has to be blemish-free. For Gunn and Hart, a few misjudged tweets have severely ruptured their personas, missing out on directing the third instalment of Guardians of the Galaxy and hosting the Oscars respectively.

Therefore, as sad as it might seem, these film stars cannot really afford to use social media in the same way as us ‘normal’ folk too. The inescapable surveillance and staying power of social media mean that one misinformed opinion from 2009 can never be taken back or undone. Paparazzi, internet trolls or anyone who is feeling a bit bored can now scroll through every bad decision a star has ever made with just a few clicks. At the end of the day, Hollywood is ultimately a business and, like all businesses, it is based on supply and demand. If there is no demand for a particular actor or actress, the directors will not bother to ‘supply’ them. Thus, if the cases of Gunn and Hart are anything to go by, in order to preserve their careers, stars have no choice but to remain guarded and continue with that ‘us and them’ mentality.

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