Tuesday, June 23, 2009


If you asked any random American on the street to name as many actual living people as they possibly could, whether they knew them personally or not, what do you think would be the career of the majority of those named? In other words, what do you think is the most common profession where we can personally identify people with that job? Take a minute... think on your answer.

Doctors, teachers, lawyers, police officers, firefighters? We probably know only a handful of people who do those jobs by name. Musicians, politicians, or athletes? We can probably name quite a few of those. We're getting closer, but still not there. Authors? Not even close. No... my non-scientifically definitive answer on this topic is... actors. Any given average mainstream American can name hundreds of actors. In fact, there's even a website or two dedicated to help if you'd like to try.

The Greek word hypokrisis was used to mean actor, and is where we get the more derogatory word hypocrite. The synonyms of which are deceiver, dissembler, pretender, and pharisee according to Dictionary.com.

Is our society's prolific knowledge of actors indicative of anything? Perhaps not. But it is interesting to me that the career that makes the most people famous in this country is one in which you earn money by pretending to be someone you're not. I pretty sure that it hasn't always been this way - before movies and television the top spot probably went to politicians or athletes.

You know, I didn't know one single name of a firefighter who died on 9/11/2001 before I looked up the list, but I do know most of the cast of Ocean's Eleven. Actors do not make the list of the top 15 largest worked occupations in America. In fact there are only about 44,000 actors in the US. So why does this profession hold the elevated position it does? Its workers in general are certainly not a model of the values we claim to embrace as a society, as evidenced by the the grocery store news rags. Are these people really worth knowing so much about? Does our obsession with actors say something about our nation's values?