Iconic film stars like Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant and James Dean were admired and imitated by entire generations who wanted to be just as sexy, suave and rebellious. These actors were seen as fascinating and glamorous and seemed to inhabit a separate universe; otherworldliness was intrinsic to the celebrity culture of their time. It is hard to think of an actor today who will come to define our era and become an eternal icon.
While the demise of the film icon means a decline in glamour and the ‘magic of the movies’, it can also be seen as a sign of maturity on behalf of filmmakers and audiences. Yet, today, another form of celebrity culture prevails; more and more film stars step off the cinema screen and into the real world to head social campaigns, from George Clooney taking up the humanitarian crisis in Darfur to Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and a host of others backing Al Gore’s Live Earth crusade.
Do today’s actors have what it takes to become monumental, awe-inspiring icons or has the earnest role model replaced the larger than life idol? Is the loss of the glamorous film star even regrettable? And do we really need celebrities to be role models who are ‘in touch’ with the world? Should actors really be spouting politics rather than rehearsing lines?
|Professor Sarah Churchwell|
chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities; Professor of American literature, School of Advanced study, University of London
freelance journalist; producer and reporter for Sweden's public service radio
writer and critic; convenor, Soap Box debating forum
culture spokesman, UKIP; director, New Culture Forum
history and politics teacher, South London school
|Nathalie Rothschild freelance journalist; producer and reporter for Sweden's public service radio|
|Helen Birtwistle history and politics teacher, South London school|
|Dr Wendy Earle impact development officer, Birkbeck, University of London; convenor, Academy of Ideas Arts and Society Forum|
|recommended by spiked|