The then relatively unknown model Emily Ratajkowski, got worldwide attention when she appeared topless in the tasteless video for the equally crass song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. Before that pivotal moment, Ratajkowski had been a child model since age 14 when she signed with the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency. Now, in a meteoric rise, she has been offered a crucial role in a major motion picture starring Ben Affleck and being headed by A-list director David Fincher. Sadly, this rise to fame mirrors many, mostly female starlets, who quickly gained fame and fortune by selling their souls. Case in point, in a rather horrific interview, would-be Christian-pop superstar turned “I Kissed a Girl” singer Katy Perry said: “When I was 15, because I grew up in a household where all I ever did was listen to gospel music…. I swear I wanted to be, like, the Amy Grant of music, but it didn’t work out, and so I sold my soul to the devil.”
What many, who have never been inside the entertainment industry, do not understand is that every performer comes to a certain juncture when they have to make a decision between selling their soul and becoming famous or keeping it and slipping back into obscurity. One of the most well-known early examples was when 1950s blonde-bombshell Jayne Mansfield, whose career was going nowhere, decided to take her bikini top off in front of eager photographers while she was among a cadre of unknown pin-ups promoting a Jane Russell film. After that, studios lined-up to sign her. A more recent example would be the decision by Halle Berry to do a topless scene in the film “Swordfish.” According to critics, it was one of the few memorable things about the lackluster movie. Henceforth, she gained an enormous amount of media attention, and the actress, who to that point had been largely relegated to smaller supporting roles – took her career into another plain of notoriety; eventually leading to an Oscar win for Best Actress.
During my short stay in Hollywood, during the early to mid-90s, most of my friends knew that I was an old movie buff: being an avid watcher of mainly B-films from the 50s and 60s. One aged Hollywood insider, that I met, constantly plied me with lurid stories about famous actresses who shopped around home-made porn movies to all the Hollywood agents and producers; a sort of preview of their abilities, and a promise of services that could one day be rendered. I found it all rather gossipy and hard to believe; until, he produced a VHS copy of one such film and I saw it. I was dumbfounded. Then, almost simultaneously, I got reacquainted with an old friend from my early days in the late-80s Castro scene: she was a strikingly beautiful bisexual fashion model with a bohemian penchant for performance art. Since our last meeting, she had been to New York and was now in LA trying to break into acting. She was so stunning to look at that I naively couldn’t imagine a talent agency not signing her. Then, she told me about the rounds she had made; fighting off photographers and agents who demanded that she sleep with them. One, even so boldly said that there are thousands of girls just as pretty as she who would do what they demanded. She refused. And, now, with her self-respect still intact, she was washing out of Hollywood and her dreams of being famous.
In the porn industry, the option to sell your soul to Satan is a very immediate one: it comes down to the choice between taking off your cloths and performing sex acts on camera or walking out of the room. In the so called main-stream media, the opportunities are more subtle, but the payoffs bigger. Yet, something is still lost and gained in the process. For example, the most clearly demonic barter took place between a previously little noticed Jessica Biel, who was only a second player on a minor family friendly drama, but instantly rose to superstardom when she posed naked at 17. The magazine cover, featuring Biel, rightly glared with the tag-line “Fallen Angel.” Her costar, Stephen Collins (who has battled his own inner demons), aptly compared the whole affair to “child pornography.” And, like rising-star Ratajkowski. Biel also grew up in front of the cameras: therefore, with today’s stars, who more often than not have been in the business since childhood, there is a certain amount of grooming which has taken place beforehand. Then, the jump into satanic collusion is not such a stark one. For, unlike the conspiracy theorists claim, there is no organized illuminati or Hollywood coven, but an individual attack on each person by the devil. Probably the most revealing, but also the most sadly pathetic, retelling of how someone becomes seduced was given by Anna Nicole Smith shortly before her death. Of her early experiences in strip clubs she said: “I worked there, and it was just awful in those places. It was terrible…And it was really horrible for me. But, you know, the clubs are dark and…” Seeing a quick ticket to success, Smith found her way to Playboy. Asked, why she posed naked, she said: “Because I wanted to become a model and an actress, so I thought, well, here we go. But I chickened out four times before I did that, though. It was really scary…They talked to me a lot. They just kind of talked me out of my robe, for about 30 minutes. It took about 30 minutes, and then I was just like…” Although her answer was slightly inarticulate, it’s still significant all the same; because, it happens like she said: just like that; and its over…you sold your soul.
One wonders what people would want their children to get involved in Hollywood. This is a good addition to the truly shocking piece on the tragic lives of those children and adolescents involved with Disney.
This is a world gone topsy-turvy, full of idolatry (money, fame, sex), with no moral guidance except for cults (e.g. Scientology, New Age groups, the ruthless self-centredness of Buddhistic doctrines, or anti-civilization worship of nature such as Avatar). How rare are movies that seek to convey any proper values.
PS: you should write a book of movie essays from a Catholic perspective, or may be a movie review column for a christian media outlet: you would be very good at that!
I was very good at dancing when I was young. . . my parents did not help me pursue it further. I never had the best teachers or made the most of opportunities to further my dancing. So, I went to college and graduated in Accounting. I remember my father said I could be a dancing success and lose my soul. I did not understand what that meant. Thanks to your brilliantly written post, I understand now. I think if I would have been in “Hollywood” (or Vegas or that genre) I would have succumbed to all the temptations.
There is a point of no return. . . we can go so far into the darkness of sin and evil that we choose evil. Let us pray for all those young men and women in the entertainment business.
I am reminded of an anecdote told by Catholic historian Charles A. Coulombe when he was interviewed on the Coast to Coast AM radio program. He related a story about a famous Hollywood actress (whose name he did not want to reveal) who was at a Hollywood party. During the party the actress noticed that someone was passing around something. The actress immediately left the party when she discovered that the object was a crucifix that was being passed around in order for people to desecrate it.