4 Attempts To Answer The Question: Do Hot People Ruin Movies?
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Our Cracked Movie Club guest for this week asked if “hot people ruin movies”, and I answered, “Not really, I like hot people.” But I wonder if he meant, “Do well-known movie stars ruin movies by their mere presence in the film?”
Regardless, the question intrigues me, so here are a few, weak attempts to answer it.
4. The Halo Effect
You may be familiar with this, but the “Halo Effect” is a term for how humans are dumb and believe that hot people are better. Not just like in the sack—you dog—but more intelligent, better leaders, whatever. The hotter the person, the higher their perceived morality and competence. With that in mind, it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest audiences would more quickly identify with and root for an attractive lead in a film.
Now, does this mean a thicc caboose would ruin a movie? Depends. If a good character is hot, then you could equally argue that A) That means the audience will subconsciously root for them more on principal and be more invested which is seems like a good way to have a positive experience but also B) The lead’s chiseled jaw might paper over some mediocre characterization or plotting that would be more noticeable if the lead was a couple Buscemis less bangable. Still, though, in both situations the “goodness” of the movie is highly subjective.
But okay what would happen if producers are willing play with this phenomenon and cast a hot actor as the villain and make the hero less attractive and force us all to struggle deeply with the implications? Like yeah it’s bad he just ate a live cat but awww look at his dimples? That could make for a cool, subversive movie, right?
What usually happens is they'll just huck a bunch of acid on Rami Malek’s face in a James Bond movie and say, “See! He ugly now! That make villain! BAD! BAD MAN!” Or if there is a hot villain, they’ll get redeemed like Loki or Cable or any Bond girl who eventually is a bit nice or repentant before she’s smothered in gold or bodily fluids or whatever. Movies seem to lean into and reinforce this objectively nonsensical bias many of us hold.
In summation, I think we could use this phenomenon to ultimately create a good, unrefined movie—but it's unlikely to happen anytime soon meaning hot people COULD be ruining movies.
3. Ticket Sales
Some dweebs point to a film’s financial success or failure as an indicator of its quality. So if a movie makes money, it’s good, right? And if a hot celebrity helps a movie make money, then they’re objectively not ruining the great movie, yeah?
Well, I read a lot of studies on this and it appears that nobody really knows what the relationship between movie stars and financial success is exactly. If they did, big, star-studded movies would be more successful more often. Unscientifically, it appears the best strategy is to create a good movie that sort of CREATES a star, and then ride that star's success in sequels in the same franchise i.e. basically everything Marvel has ever done. That's right, I'm bold enough to say it. Just make good movies, dummies!
It does appear stars have a lot of power to get certain movies greenlit that might not otherwise, but that doesn’t mean those movies will be good (see Tom Cruise and The Mummy). The most positive example of star power that can lead to big hits is using the draw of a star to boost original interesting ideas even if the reviews are bad (see JLaw and Chris Pratt and Passengers). But that movie still only did okay, it seems the movie still has to be good (see Amy Adams and Arrival).
So with this in mind, I’ll say, sure, a hot star attached to a good movie can help it go further than it might on its own without any hotties, but conversely a good movie can CREATE a star so… it’s a bit of a wash.
2. Parasocial Relationships
Okay, not to negate what I just said, but it turns out that if a celebrity is willing to dredge up a bunch of social media buzz, that can be extremely valuable for a film. This is because we’re all broken people who develop parasocial (one-sided) relationships with the people on our TV, and so if we get closer access to them via social media, we’re more inclined to do what they say and watch what they make.
This, to me, actually feels like, yes, hot people ARE ruining movies potentially. Social media buzz feels like a terrible indicator of whether a movie is actually good or not—especially if it’s coming from somebody that close to the thing. And furthermore, it feels even less compelling to watch a movie solely because it feels like you've got some connection to the ACTOR which presumably would obscure your connection to the character or what's actually going on in the movie. Much like how parents are thrilled their 11-year old is in any play at all and are able to look past what a terrible Romeo they make for.
You could again argue as long as the movie is good utilizing these weird connections is a big positive in getting more people to see it, but it somehow feels grimier than just knowing Leonardo DiCaprio is in the thing. If that’s not enough unless DiCaprio slides into your DMs, then maybe it’s not an interesting enough idea.
1. Characters Vs. People
Okay one more wildcard for you. Did you know people are actually more likely to buy condoms from a hot person’s specific character than just that person themselves? Or cars or chainsaws or whatever people sell? I don’t know what you want to do with that other than this seems to emphasize the point that a quality character done well is more important than hoping a quality actor can elevate a mediocre part.
So, in summation, I don’t think hot people ruin movies. They also don’t automatically make them any better, but they can help! Does that help you?! Listen to our podcast!
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