At first, we thought Shia LaBeouf wearing a paper bag over his head was straight-up insane. Now he’s claiming it’s a piece of performance art to denounce his fame, and we think it’s straight-up pretentious.
What is it with celebs trying to be deep-thinking provocateurs commenting on the nature of fame? And why is this always so immediately eye-roll-inducing?
In addition to “LaDouche,” take the case of Lady Gaga. While she has always focused on celebrity as performance art, she nevertheless turned off audiences with her latest album Artpop, which was far more explicit with its artiste ambitions and meta-commentary about celeb-dom, replete with a Jeff Koons-designed cover, references to obscure mythology and musicians, and a tragic ballad about fame as drugs. The result was so widely panned, it sent Gaga into a depression.
Similarly, when Joaquin Phoenix starred in I’m Still Here, a mockumentary designed to provoke discussion about the nature of celebrity, people were either confused, annoyed or both. And don’t even get us started on his decision to act like a crazy person on Letterman, presumably as some sort of profound statement vis a vis performance art.
In a way, I feel sorry for the backlash against celebrities who dig deep to comment on the cult of celebrity. But it’s also legitimately exasperating. For one thing, we as an audience are implicit in that cult, and it feels kind of crappy to be attacked by our chosen idols for that. Also, we pay these people big bucks to provide escapism by, you know, entertaining us. All that deep thinking just kills the buzz.