The Awokening of Acting

Without getting into the pros and cons of “woke” in what passes for the new socio-economic (not to mention political) norms in today’s society, we are witnessing at least one related controversy so absurd that it defies reasonable, much less rational, discussion.  

I refer to the idiotic notion that it is somehow not just prejudicial but in fact discriminatory for actors to play a role without personally having had existential experiences attributed to the characters they represent.  In other words, actors should not be awarded roles simply for the ability to realistically pretend to be someone they are not (which I believe pretty much defines the craft of acting).  No, a more crucial and ostensibly egalitarian criterion must be the similarity of an actor’s life to that of the role being acted.  This theory of thespianism is today active in British theater where a (gasp!) woman, who worse yet is not physically deformed, dares to play Richard III.  

In America, we have the recent crazed criticisms of Bradley Cooper’s brilliant film portrayal of Leonard Bernstein.  This particular madness is highlighted by the embarrassing (to me, as a Jew) paranoid accusation that the enlarged prosthetic nose Cooper wore (which quite accurately resembled Bernstein’s), was nothing less than – here it comes – antisemitic!  As if that ridiculous contention wasn’t enough, the proponents of this imbecilic nonsense further insisted that – wait for it — only a Jewish actor could embody the sensitivities necessary to play the role.  And to add a logical extension to this demented demand, I assume he would also have to share Bernstein’s sexual preferences.

Can you imagine the casting call coming from one of these crackpots?  To wit: Only religiously-circumcised, homosexual, Bernstein look-alikes need apply.

I recall a wonderful (perhaps apocryphal) story from the filming of “Marathon Man” during which Dustin Hoffman arrived one day looking like a down-and-out, beat-up bum.  His co-star was Laurence Olivier (who in retrospect, despite his reputation as a world-renowned actor, must have been undeservedly awarded his role as a sadistic Nazi fugitive to the detriment of all those competing actors who were actually sadistic Nazi fugitives).  Olivier asked Hoffman if he was ill.  Hoffman answered that in preparation for the scene in which Olivier’s character physically tortures him, he had not eaten, slept or shaved for two days so that he could better play the part.  Olivier replied, “My dear boy, it would be so much easier if you just acted.”

In this era of mindless authoritarianism, disintegrating democracy, identity culture intolerance, social and economic injustice, rampant self-serving intellectual dishonesty and a world teetering on the brink of self-destruction, can we not at least enjoy plays or movies without having to contend with a movement led by morons?