You probably already know about Shia Labeouf’s strange behavior at the Nymphomaniac Movie Premier in February. Labeouf arrived at the red carpet wearing a paper bag on his head with the phrase “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” written across the front of the bag in black marker. He posed for pictures a little while, but not without a great deal of defiant urbaneness as he stood locked in the center of the carpet, hands in pocket, rigid as can be. What’s even more intriguing is his conduct at the film’s press conference later that evening. He showed up sporting a dirty baseball cap worn as if he were shielding his eyes from the glaring sunrays of film journalists and paparazzi alike. He made it strikingly apparent he did not want to be there. When a member of the media sun asked him a question about the film, he said this:
He then proceeded to leave the panel without another word. What was Labeouf trying to say?
Many Youtube Commenters have been pointing fingers at Labeouf calling his act copycat. Apparently, Eric Cantona of Manchester United 1995 (a professional soccer player) said the exact same thing at a press conference before a game. He even walked out like Labeouf did. For the years that followed, strange behavior enthusiasts tried to decipher Cantona’s cryptic message. Many of them have come to the conclusion that Cantona was simply tired of being in the spotlight. According to The Independent, Cantona’s legal director stated that the player was “under tremendous strain” during the time of the press conference.
Along with being an actor, Labeouf is also a celebrity and like Cantona, they must contend with the tremendous stress which comes with being in the spotlight. With his anti-fame paper bag mask and dirty bum cap, I think it’s safe to say Labeouf isn’t a fan of the spotlight that comes with being a high profile actor anymore. The Cantona Message is a metaphor for anti-fame. The “seagulls” represent the media hungry for juicy stories. The “trawel” represents the celebrity. And the “sardines” represent celebrity news. If the media is under the impression they’re not getting any juicy gossip, then they’re not going to follow the “trawel.”
Labeouf isn’t the only celebrity who’s been sporting baseball caps and rejecting fame either. During the 2013 Teen Choice Awards, Ashton Kutcher had similar things to say about the entertainment industry as a whole:
“Usually when you go to [award] shows,” said Kutcher in an interview with Ellen, “it’s people propagating the fame machine over and over and over again.”
But all of this makes me wonder, isn’t the “fame machine” a huge part of how the entertainment industry makes money? Starpower, albeit significant or not, plays a role in deciding which actors and actresses get, well, the role. Surely Labeouf knew what to expect when he went to a press release for a major motion picture.
Still, perhaps now more then ever, the “fame machine” has been running on overdrive. Maybe we should tone down the stardom because it’s clearly making the lives of these celebrities very difficult (have you seen Kanye West vs. the Paparazzi lately?). Is it unrealistic for Labeouf to expect anti-fame when he’s working in an industry that has thrived on it for the past century? Also, do you think Labeouf’s message succeeded in promoting a more anti-fame entertainment industry or did his stunt only exacerbate the issue?