The Beat’s Gregory Paul Silber has been accused of having a bit of an… obsessive personality. Each week in Silber Linings, he takes a humorous look at the weirdest, funniest, and most obscure bits of comics and pop culture that he can’t get out of his head.
There’s a popular genre of article within the geek journalism world that I’ve dubbed “Actor Desires Employment.” We’ve all seen it: an actor of some level of renown, or at least recognizability – it doesn’t have to be an A-lister – states that they’d be interested in playing a superhero, or some other recognizable genre character from a blockbuster franchise. Usually these are offhand remarks, such as tweets or quotes pulled from an interview, the latter of which is often a result of the interviewer point-blank asking if said actor would be interested in such a role. In many cases, it’s an actor who’s already played a superhero simply expressing that they’d be interested in reprising the role. A billion and a half pop culture sites publish entire articles speculating upon that one quote, and the fandom corners of the internet promptly explode, either with excited anticipation or outrage that such a casting for their favorite space movie or whatever would even be considered.
And as futile as it may be, I have to tell the internet, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift: you need to calm down.
Now before I go any further, I want to clarify a few things. I’m not casting aspersions on the sites that publish “Actor Desires Employment” articles or the (in almost all cases, severely underpaid) entertainment journalists who write them. I’ve written for sites that have published ADE (let’s go with that) articles and know firsthand how utterly brutal it is to work in media in any capacity right now. I don’t begrudge anyone for publishing reliably clickable articles like those of the the Actor Desires Employment variety when so many of us literally need those sweet, sweet clicks to put food on the table.
That’s assuming, of course, that Actor Desires Employment is presented in the spirit of harmless fun and lighthearted speculation, which it usually is from reputable outlets. I’m not referring to any of the several sites I won’t name that provide fodder for angry YouTubers to make 4-hour livestreams about how much they hate Kathleen Kennedy and profit from the same right-wing outrage machine of a bullshit culture war as Breitbart or Newsmax.
For the most part though, it’s all in the name of good fun. And look, I’m just as much a fan of geeky movies as the rest of you. It’s kind of the entire reason why I write this column. When an actor I like, or even am merely familiar with, expresses interest in joining a franchise I like, my ears perk up. I’m just saying, as a fan, that we might have to temper our excitement over this stuff.
Because here’s the thing: superhero movies and TV are big business. Especially when they’re based on recognizable IPs from Marvel and DC, a live-action adaptation of even the most obscure Big 2 comic is almost guaranteed to be a hit, as we’ve seen with the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad, and most recently, Shang-Chi. And naturally, a massive box office haul or good ratings on TV or streaming is going to raise the profile of the actors who star in such successful productions. Why would an actor publicly take themself out of the running for such an opportunity?
I’m not an actor, and I don’t claim to be an expert on how actors live their lives when the cameras stop rolling. But I do know that acting is a job. The perceived glamor and luxury of their lifestyle leads casual consumers of entertainment to assume those lives are more romantic and magical than they may actually be. And look, chances are, Megan Fox and Norman Reedus make way more money than you or I ever will. But just because they’re hot and famous and, yes, rich, doesn’t mean they don’t have to work hard to keep their career going like any other working stiff.
(I’d be remiss not to mention that Megan Fox’s career, specifically, has been far from smooth sailing following her initial breakout success in the late ’00s).
The assumption that any actor of even moderate success is extraordinarily wealthy leads to the assumption that all actors have the luxury of being extraordinarily selective about which roles they take on. Unless they’re on the same tier as Leonardo DiCaprio, most actors can’t afford to star in just one film a year and spend the rest of their time having allegedly half-hearted sex with models. A good actor can exercise their creativity to put their own spin on a role in whatever capacity they can, and certainly the more successful you are in Hollywood, the more offers you get and therefore can turn down. But for the most part, there still has to be an element of “take what you can get” to survive.
I don’t doubt, for example, that Henry Cavill‘s expressed desire to put the Superman cape and tights back on for more movies is sincere. I may not like his Superman movies as movies, but he’s a good fit for the role and is clearly passionate about his place in the history of such an iconic character. I’m just saying that he’d be shooting his bank account in the foot if he went out of his way to say he didn’t want to play Superman again.
This may seem like a tenuous connection, but struggling with the assumption from laymen that any project taken on a by a creative professional must be representative of their greatest artistic passion is something I actually struggle with in my glamorous and luxurious day-to-day life as a professional writer. My greatest passions are comics and storytelling, and I hope to eventually make that my full-time career. Writing on a freelance basis for places like The Beat, PanelXPanel, and NeoText, as well as my own comics, I get to exercise my creativity while building my portfolio so I could continue getting more creative opportunities. I’m even freelance editing a few comics that I’ll hopefully get to talk about soon. But I also have a day job.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead says she would love the chance to play Huntress again, in her own film or the upcoming #BlackCanary film:
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 10, 2021
I don’t say that with any semblance of bitterness or regret. The vast majority of writers, even a lot of writers you’ve heard of, have day jobs to support themselves, even if their books are bestsellers. I’m a copywriter by day, and I actually really like my job and the people I work with. It’s not comics or pop culture, but I’m grateful to have a decent day job, let alone one that allows me to exercise my creativity. It just gets frustrating how many people assume that represents my entire being.
Hell, my first salaried, full-time position out of college was writing literal clickbait for a content farm. It’s hilarious how many people I spoke to at the time who seemed to think I was doing that instead of writing novels because nothing in the universe gave me more joy than headlines like “she seemed like a normal cat, but when she ate a Twinkie, my jaw dropped!” Sure, it certainly couldn’t have been because I was 24 with a Writing Arts degree desperate to move out of my parents’ house.
It may seem like an extreme comparison, but this is why I think fandom, as a community, might want to take Actor Desires Employment with more of a grain of salt. I love Kathryn Hahn and would love to see her reprise her WandaVision role as Agatha Harkness. Same goes for Kristin Ritter as Jessica Jones. I’m sure their passion for the roles is real, and that’s why they turned in good performances. But they’re also actors who need work.
I spend a lot of time talking to fans and seeing what they write online. I can’t blame them for their excitement, and I’m just as guilty of freaking out about these things.