The Importance of Being Real

At the movies, do you stay until all the credits have rolled by?

Everyone knows that behind-the-scenes folks in the movie industry get the short end of the stick. Directors and producers are not (for the most part) the household names that actors are.
The recently released film Simone takes on the inflated sense the public has of movie stars and the value we place on fame in our society.

Al Pacino plays film director Stanley Turansky, all washed up after several bombs. His last chance is in big trouble when the star actress walks out claiming he’s impossible to work with. Because of his reputation Turansky can’t get any other actress as a replacement and it appears his career is over.

Enter Hank. A computer nerd and fan of Turansky’s art films, Hank claims to have created a computer-generated actress that will save the day for the skeptical Turansky.

Eventually,Turansky tries Hank’s idea and this “virtual actress,” Simone (Simulation-One) becomes a superstar. But who is really the star? Turansky speaks, programs, and in a sense, acts for Simone, even though she’s the one we’re seeing on screen.

The film takes the viewers on a hysterical ride where Turansky fools everyone. Even the studios buy into his ploy. But Simone is the one who has taken the world by storm, and Turansky gets none of the credit. In a real sense, it’s Simone who “makes” Turansky.

The film raises questions. Are stars simply creations of the media and the market? Once someone reaches superstardom can they then do no wrong? Are those behind the camera unappreciated and irrelevant?

From an aesthetic point of view Hollywood has opened the Pandora’s box with this film. Could a virtual actor really succeed? Would the public be duped by it? Could we create a star with the best qualities of actors past and present using nothing more than computer code?

My instincts say yes. After the film, the credits reveal that Simone is a computer generation and not a real actor. (actually, the makers say they used a body double for a few scenes but, Simone is 82% computer generated). Nevertheless, I heard people outside the theatre arguing about where they’d seen Simone before.

“I think she was on ‘All My Children,'” said one movie-goer. Another claimed to have seen her in a Billy Crystal movie.

The bigger question after seeing this movie is: how real are we? Do we always show others our true selves or do we keep our emotions hidden? Simone has no real feelings of her own, but aren’t there celebrities out there who appear to be less real than Simone? And we all take to certain dramatic “roles” in our everyday life, refusing to reveal our vulnerabilities out of fear.

In that case, don’t we end up measuring our own value by how happy we appear to be to others and not by how we feel inwardly? Worse, we may begin to forget about whom we are stepping on to get where we are going or about whom we might be ignoring all together. In short, we sell out our own genuineness for the cheaper ride to a so-called better life.

Perhaps Simone is more genuine than we may think. Perhaps she is a mirror of us—the unhealthy superficiality, the façade we want to believe is our success.