Oh, Really, Marshall McLuhan?
He said that the medium is the message. I understand that now.
One of my friends recently told me about an Andy Serkis interview in which he defended his motion capture performances as real acting--something as legitimate as any other dramatic way of portraying a character. It may be different from what we have come to know as "acting," but it's still acting.
And I really wish I could be more sympathetic.
Drumming better with one arm than I could with two
This question reminds me of some critics' opinion that Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen isn't really drumming because--at least where his left foot is concerned--there is another medium getting between him and his drum kit. Since he can no longer hold a drumstick and beat a drum with his left hand, he has a series of pedals he can stomp on with his left foot that are programmed to make the exact sound the corresponding drums would. The effect is the same, and so this doesn't seem significant.
I have so much respect for Allen and his bandmates, for whom "In sickness and in health" and "For better and for worse" seem to mean more than they do to some actual married couples. Yet, having chewed this over for a while, I wonder whether the critics have a point. Not getting personal here, but what if the technology that has enabled Allen to keep recording and performing with his band does mean that he is no longer "really drumming"?
Returning to the world of drama . . . I remember reading that the first controversy surrounding "motion pictures" was that serious stage actors did not believe that what went on in movies was "real acting." To them, a "real actor" wouldn't be allowed so many takes to get something right, receive the luxury of memorising only a bit of the script at a time, or have his performance enhanced (or diminished) by clever camera angles and shots. And so on.
We for whom actors are predominantly those who appear in movies might blink a little at this. But it's true that an entirely different set of skills are necessary in the theatre--and perhaps an entirely different sort of audience.
While we're on the subject, would the Medievals, with their community-produced morality plays, even agree that the supposedly "pristine" stage plays of the early twentieth century count as "real theatre"? I doubt they would have been so liberal even with Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. For the medievals, plays had rich religious and communal significance, none of modern drama's built-in disconnect from the deepest beliefs of its audience. The medium changed . . . and so did the message.
Just a couple of months ago, I told a friend that my feelings toward the development of the printing press are no longer 100% positive, and that I've started nurturing a (slightly hypocritical) suspicion of blogs as well. Which isn't to say that I hate print and other mass media--just that I think we lost something that we don't even remember. And this isn't a new thought: other online friends may remember that it was several years ago that I said I don't really consider blogging, for all its production of words, to be "real writing."
It has also been several years since a musicologist friend of mine shared the opinion of one of her Voice teachers that the biggest blow to musical artistry that came out of the twentieth century was the microphone. Apparently, anyone who has a microphone can start thinking of his warbling as "real singing." I don't like being a snob about music (because, you know, I listen to McFly) and I truly believe in my heart that everyone can sing (Yes, including you, Father B!) . . . but at the same time, I see this teacher's point.
And for the record, Andy Serkis's "performance" as Caesar--"real" or not--broke my heart.
Image Sources: a) Andy Serkis as Gollum, b) Serkis as Caesar