WHYWELOVE TO CATCH A FALL­ING STAR

A car­ni­val at­mos­phere in the wake of a show­biz celebrity’s hanky-panky com­ing to light speaks vol­umes about the pop­u­lar cul­ture of the day and, of course, the slow­ness of se­ri­ous news.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

This is so an­ti­cli­mac­tic. Why isn’t the first wife an­gry? Ob­vi­ously she had long known about her hus­band’s in­fi­delity and they had reached some kind of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. That left moral purists in an awk­ward po­si­tion. Who are they go­ing to cham­pion now that the vic­tim has es­sen­tially sided with the sin­ner. The fo­cus has shifted to the girl­friend who has not come out with a pub­lic stance yet. Is she now the vic­tim due to his prompt re­pen­tance? (She had posted a cryptic sen­tence onMarch 23, say­ing “One should pur­sue but not force it be­cause what one wins by pur­su­ing is price­less while what one wins by forc­ing it is cheap.”)

Wen is ru­mored to be the high­est-paid tele­vi­sion ac­tor in China, com­mand­ing three times the salary of the Korean heart­throb who has taken China by storm. He may not pos­sess the best looks or the best act­ing chops, but he has built a solid ca­reer on a com­bi­na­tion of good roles and a match­ing per­sona of a boy-man and the boy next door that is more en­dear­ing than en­chant­ing. In other words, he is some­one who can be trusted as a hus­band and fa­ther or a kid grow­ing into one.

Truth is, we don’t know any­thing about what hap­pened be­tween the three of them. We just project from the roles they play and the pub­lic ap­pear­ances they make that they are the kind of people we take them to be. That is at once the ben­e­fit and the dis­ad­van­tage of an act­ing ca­reer. Their fa­cade could be ex­actly who they are, or the op­po­site of who they are, or any­thing in be­tween.

All three of these people are adults and their pri­vate lives have noth­ing to do with the pub­lic. The fact thatWen has been act­ing as a kind of role model is partly the fault of the pub­lic or his fan base. Act­ing is not built on moral­ity; it is one’s abil­ity to make be­lieve he or she can be some­one else once the need arises. It is sim­ply fool­ish to equate a role with the one who tem­po­rar­ily em­bod­ies it.

That said, ac­tors who rely on the trick of de­lib­er­ately blur­ring the line be­tween ac­tor and role should abide by his own rule. If you want the pub­lic to be­lieve you’re a paragon of moral­ity, then stick to it or suf­fer the con­se­quences.

In a cul­tural con­text, the in­creas­ing fail­ures of fairy tale mar­riages in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try in­deed have an im­pact on so­cial at­ti­tudes and val­ues. When­ever a celebrity union un­rav­els, those who per­ceived it as the em­bod­i­ment of con­ju­gal per­fec­tion are dealt a blow, grad­u­ally mor­ph­ing them into cyn­ics. The oft-re­peated catch­phrase, “I won’t be­lieve in love any­more”, is a self-dep­re­cat­ing wise­crack that has truth at its core.

It’s not a stretch to imag­ine that some will fol­low the lead of the erst­while role mod­els even in their foibles sim­ply be­cause they have re­vealed a vul­ner­a­bil­ity that makes them more hu­man. There is also a pal­pa­ble un­der­tone of schaden­freude at the im­plo­sion of mar­quee names. If those perch­ing atop pedestals can­not re­sist temp­ta­tion and hold a mar­riage to­gether, shouldn’t we feel bet­ter about our­selves and our pedes­trian lives?

Ei­ther way, stars in the en­ter­tain­ment galaxy are used as bench­marks against which the hud­dling masses can mea­sure their own ex­is­tence and its worth. It has all the trap­pings of a mod­ern re­li­gion with the only ex­cep­tion that these are mere mor­tals whose un­pre­dictabil­ity can in­ter­fere with our pro­jec­tion and faith. That’s why a real saint had bet­ter be dead. For one thing, dead people do not com­mit adul­tery and can be molded into what­ever shape the ma­nip­u­la­tor wants. Con­tact the writer at ray­mondzhou@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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