As Shia LaBeouf says #IAMSORRY for his recent ‘meltdown’, what exactly does he want from us?
At the Berlin Film Festival this week, Shia LaBeouf appeared on the red carpet wearing a brown paper bag on his head emblazoned with the words, “I Am Not Famous Anymore” He’d earlier, at the press conference for his new film Nymphomaniac, responded to a question about shooting sex scenes by haphazardly glugging down an entire glass of water, quoting Eric Cantona and stalking off to leave journalists and co-stars baffled.
Are Shia LaBeouf’s antics Lindsay Lohan tragic, or is he trying for a Joaquin Phoenix-level of meta-crazy?
We all love a good celebrity meltdown, don’t we? We love to water these poppies, flocking to the multiplex to see their latest blockbuster until they grow ever so tall, and when they come crashing down we hungrily consume any press coverage that contemplates every filthy detail of their sudden decline. Admittedly, movie stars do possess their own special kind of crazy and the Hollywood system is a veritable meat grinder that chews up and spits out people on a minutely basis. But we, the public, also need to take a fair share of the blame.
We create these ‘monsters’ in our own special way, with our adoration and our scorn and especially our Schadenfreude, which is constant and everlasting. I’m not apologising for celebrity behaviour, but if we take someone with their personality type and bathe it in the radiation of a million Twitter feeds, we can’t complain when they begin to stomp on a few buildings. But what happens when a movie star zigs when they should have zagged? Are Shia LaBeouf’s antics Lindsay Lohan tragic, or is he trying for a Joaquin Phoenix-level of meta-crazy?
If the former, then Shia LaBeouf is just another slow motion car crash presented for our entertainment. If it is the latter, however, then he is either a post-modernist genius, or a complete horse’s ass. It appears as though LaBeouf’s current behaviour is some attempt at being a ‘serious artist’ – since his short film as director, HowardCantour.com, debuted at Cannes in 2012, LaBeouf has been producing nothing at all original. The film itself is purported to be plagiarised from a story by graphic novelist Daniel Clowes, and LaBeouf’s subsequent apology to Clowes was itself plagiarised from some random comment on Yahoo! Answers.
LaBeouf is using public scrutiny to his advantage, only in the most obnoxious way possible, like some kind of evil James Franco
LaBeouf’s attempts to become a comic book artist were shot down in flames as his works were discovered to be plagiarising other, better artists like Charles Bukowski. Again, LaBeouf apologised using someone else’s words, namely Tiger Woods and Robert McNamara of all people. It was happening with such regularity that it just had to be a put-on, his supposed meltdown must be some grand artistic vision. Sure enough, he came out and claimed that yes it was all performance art.
But, like the Time article suggests, LaBeouf is still plagiarising, this time Joaquin Phoenix’s own meta-meltdown which culminated in his mock-doc I’m Still Here, only LaBeouf’s is called #IAMSORRY. He has taken up residence in a Los Angeles performance space where people can go and see him sitting quietly with a bag on his head, or something.
As pre-meditated as all this is, it all feels very hollow. Shia LaBeouf wants us to shit all over him because we think he is having a nervous breakdown, but when we learn that it is some sort of pretentious art project, we just roll our eyes, cluck our tongues and sigh, “Who cares?” Instead of being crushed under the weight of his stardom, Shia LaBeouf is trying to use it to his advantage, only in the most obnoxious way possible, like some kind of evil James Franco.
LaBeouf’s Shia-nigans have only caused indifference, the worst possible reaction for his ego. Or is that what he was after all along?
LaBeouf’s justification for all of this is that all art is plagiarism and in the digital age there are no more original thoughts. These are interesting ideas worth exploring but the conspiracy theorist in me suggests two things: 1) maybe he was caught plagiarising with his short film and went into damage control falling back on the old “I meant to do that all along” excuse, or 2) in the background, pulling the strings, has been Nymphomaniac director Lars von Trier with another of his epic shit stirring escapades. It surely does seem like something that falls within his bailiwick.
Whatever his motivations, it begs the question if LaBeouf has got the reaction he was hoping for. His artistic ambitions might just be as tragic as a full on celebrity meltdown. Movie stars crave attention from the public and we build them up on adoration or tear them down with scorn, but at the end of the day that’s what they crave. But LaBeouf’s Shia-nigans (new meme, calling it now) have only caused indifference, the worst possible reaction for a movie star’s ego. Or is that what he was after all along? Maybe it’s best if we just ignore him. But that was never going to happen now was it?
Featured image: Ascot Elite Entertainment Group/VVS Films
Inset images: Zentropa/Heimatfilm; Ascot Elite Entertainment Group/VVS Films