Saturday, April 10, 2010

The late Corin Redgrave, acting and left-wing politics

Corin Redgrave, a member of that famous acting family, died recently. He was in many films but the one I always remember him in was In the Name of the Father. He was brilliant, playing a ruthless British cop absolutely determined to get a conviction in a terrorism case regardless of the truth.

Like a lot of actors, he was a leftie. But he was actually even more extreme in this regard than most, since he was an active communist for much of his life.

He himself believed that he was blacklisted as a result. But I doubt it would have harmed his career all that much. In the British theatre, film and TV scene extremism might have been frowned upon, but being to the left of the political spectrum certainly wasn't a sin!

I find the fact that he was both really bolshie and also so good at what he did really interesting. Acting, like so many creative pursuits, is very personal and individualistic. Sure, you are working with others to create something bigger than your own contribution, but you really are focused on your own performance more than anything.

It's also a highly competitive profession in which some are rewarded lavishly while most get next to nothing for the same effort and level of skill. So it's very elitist, stratified - the opposite of what socialism purports to endorse.

It seems to be a real paradox, this. Or maybe it's not paradoxical at all ... Who knows?

Ultimately, I think it's got something to do with the fact that lefties generally haven't really grown up. They believe that we all have a right to live in a utopia, and that the state should be responsible for everything. It's a very immature belief system.

But it's that same childishness that enables them to exercise their imaginations so fully. And that's a crucial part of acting.

In short, even though leftist rhetoric is all about social equality, it's ultimately pretty self-indulgent. It's also highly emotional, not rational. Needless to say, being highly emotional is a definite advantage in the performing arts.

There must be other factors. But I think these are the main reasons why Corin Redgrave (and many other notable actors, for that matter - for example Sean Penn) gravitated so strongly to the political left.

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