Authenticity and Hollywood

actor Christian Bale

The Oscars generated feelings of authenticity for me, although, to be truthful, I am often consumed with issues of authenticity.

Engaging in studies of Native Science often issues forth authenticity. No one looks at me and asks the name of my tribe because I don’t appear to be indigenous. Being authentic for me means holding it in my heart, rather than appearance. I am a descendent of First Peoples and honor the values my grandmother learned from her grandmother.

One value is to speak the truth, and I have attempted to hold hyperbole at bay and speak honestly on these pages.

Viewing the Oscars brought to mind the braggadocio and bullshit associated with Hollywood. I’ll frame my point with two examples that, in my view, reflect inauthentic behavior. The first is the speech given by Christian Bale, whose acting I find superlative.

Bale played the memorable British youngster in Steven Spielberg’s World War II drama Empire of the Sun. He earned praise for embodying odd characters in American Psycho and The Machinist, and gave a tour de force performance in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn.

But when he went on tour to promote his last Batman film, he spoke with an American accent in his interviews. He explained it was his effort to stay in character. Odd: films typically take a year to edit and their premiers arrive long after the shooting ends.

I checked the internet for press interviews following the premier of his new film, The Fighter, and found his accent varied: Boston blue-collar in one interview, English-Aussie in another.

But when he accepted his Academy Award for his role in The Fighter, Bale assumed a Cockney accent. Odd for someone who attended school in Bournemouth, far from working class London. Maybe he just likes changing accents the way Anne Hathaway changed outfits at the ceremony, but I find it inauthentic.

And Melissa Leo’s acceptance speech for her role in The Fighter was disingenuous at best. For someone who launched a campaign to woo Academy voters, Leo is no stranger to the art of PR. Clearly she knows what it takes to generate publicity. Her swearing smacked of the same inauthenticity as Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction: a calculated and intentional “mistake.”


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, cinema, film, framing, Indian, Native Science, news bias, social media. Bookmark the permalink.

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