07/19/2004: Thought for the Day:
Why were big stars suddenly so willing to make fun at themselves? Because the self-mocking cameo acts like a Get Out of Jail Free card. In The Player, for example, celebrities got to portray themselves as clueless, self-absorbed stars, thus slyly saying to the audience, "We're not like the rest of those clueless, self-absorbed stars." When David Hasselhoff appears as himself in Dodgeball, berating the German dodgeball team with Teutonic curses, the gag only works because we know about Hasselhoff's outsized and somewhat comical popularity in Germany. But the joke, ironically, also flatters Hasselhoff—by mocking his own cheesiness, he seems to us a little less cheesy and a little more fun.
Our relationship with celebrities also depends on our assumption that we can know what they're "really like"—and therein lies the real appeal of the ironic cameo. The cameo feels like the most intimate moment we can share with a celebrity—a moment that suggests a glimpse at their true personality. (In fact, of all the cameos in Dodgeball, Chuck Norris' is the least effective, largely because he seems oblivious as to why his appearance is funny in the first place.) When you read about Charlie Sheen's sleazy exploits in the press, you might think he's simply creepy. But when you see him making fun of that reputation in Being John Malkovich, you can't help but think he's kind of cool. He gets the joke, too, even if he's the punchline. That's the irony of the ironic cameo: While stars seem to be poking fun at our perception of them, they're actually working hard to improve that perception.
--Adam Sternbergh [slate.msn.com]
Len on 07.19.04 @ 06:23 AM CST