Culture

In Defense Of Actresses: Why We Need To Stop Giving Influencers Acting Roles

By Melody Rose··  7 min read
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In the era of social media, becoming Instagram famous or trending on TikTok is the new celebrity status. In fact, many young influencers are landing TV gigs due to their large followings and engagement rates.

The question becomes, is this fair to real, trained actors? Is this upholding the integrity of quality filmmaking? Have the standards of the movie industry slipped altogether? 

Sure, there may be some diamonds in the rough out there that social media shines a light on. However, what typically makes an influencer social media famous has no correlation to their ability to act. Their large followings and spiked engagement ratings are largely due to likability and humor (as we’ve all seen with the dance routines being done on reels and the morphing filters used to exude a certain look!). 

What Makes for a Quality Actor

While there is no required degree for acting (although it’s recommended), there are certain skills that need to be present to produce top-shelf deliverability to a diverse audience. This comes through experience (and lots of it), as well as a background or study in performing arts and theater. Key skills to be a successful actor include creativity, public speaking, literacy, reading, memorization, physical stamina, persistence, discipline, dedication, and the ability to communicate to a wide variety of people. We can argue that trained actors and influencers do share one key trait — relatability.

How Today’s A-List Celebs Made It Big

Before overnight success on social media was a thing, we heard the stories of A-list celebs who were once just waitressing at a local bar. Who one day decided to collect the pennies in their pocket, move across the country in pursuit of a dream, and take a shot in Hollywood. Long days often resulted in years of pitching, auditions, and going through countless rejections until finally stumbling upon that one big break. 

While we only know our favorite movie stars at mountaintop levels of success, not all of them were born into stardom and they had to work hard to make their dream a reality. Take a look:

Hugh Jackman

Did you know Greatest Showman star Hugh Jackman was once a high-school gym teacher in England before becoming famous? He also took on gigs as a party clown (yes really!). His acting career began when he started theater and landed small roles in film before he made it big in 2000 when he played Wolverine in X-Men

Rachel McAdams

Before she became the leading actress for the teenage drama Mean Girls, Rachel McAdams used to work at a fast food chain alongside her siblings. She also taught children’s theater, but didn’t really make a name for herself in Hollywood until she landed the role of Regina George in 2004.

regina george mean girls why are you obsessed with me

George Clooney

Like many other aspiring actors, George Clooney dropped out of college to pursue his dream. In order to make ends meet in the meantime, he worked odd jobs that included selling insurance. He finally landed small roles on well-known shows like The Golden Girls and The Facts of Life before taking off in 1994 with NBC’s ER

Jennifer Aniston

Today, Jennifer Aniston might be show stopping on the red carpet, but she wasn’t always all glitz and glam. Her humble beginnings included jobs like being a bike messenger, waitress, and telemarketer before her 1994 break of becoming Friends’ most beloved character (with the best hair!), Rachel Green.

rachel green 90s hair

These are just a few of the numerous examples of actors and actresses who had to work their way up the ladder in a competitive industry. This again puts a magnifying glass on the “overnight success” we see happening with social media influencers as they begin saturating the entertainment industry.

Influencers Who Are Entering the Movie World

This is not to say influencers don’t come from humble beginnings or work hard to make it big on social media because being a content creator can certainly be a demanding, all-consuming endeavor. Yet it does seem fair to say they don’t have to go through nearly as much tireless efforts and training to land television or movie roles as other actors do.

In an interview with Variety, Jennifer Aniston discussed the phenomenon of social media fame, saying, “I always say I feel lucky that we got a little taste of the industry before it became what it is today, which is just different – more streaming services, more people. You’re famous from TikTok. You’re famous from YouTube. You’re famous from Instagram. It’s sort of almost like it’s diluting our actor’s job.” Aniston says the trend started in the '90s when the internet was increasing in power and influence: “It was right at the time when the internet really shaped a new culture about people becoming famous. This thing of people becoming famous for basically doing nothing. I mean – Paris Hilton, Monica Lewinsky, all those.”

Take Andrew Byron Bachelor (a.k.a. King Bach), for example. He was known for his humor on the now non-existent app Vine. His 6-second bursts of content drew the attention of 11.3 million people. He took that opportunity to step into acting with a small debut in the 2014 TV show Black Jesus. Many viewers reported they were “surprised to see him there” and called his performance “corny.” As he continued to pursue an acting career in the years following with Meet the Blacks, Fifty Shades of Black, and Babysitter, consumer reviews have been mixed. It seems in this case that the continual experience has helped to develop a skill set that was previously not there and is now slowly emerging.

There’s also Addison Rae, who has captivated 81 million followers and counting on TikTok with dancing videos, making her the 4th most followed content creator on the app. She stepped into acting in 2021 with He’s All That. Once again, the reviews were mixed, with most calling it a “cringey attempt at acting,” followed by a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while other loyal fans showed their unwavering support. 

addison rae hes all that

The Real Reason Influencers Are Running the Show

So why are influencers quickly becoming the new actors? Is there a shortage of actors? Is it a dying art? Or is it just more accessible to find talent through social media now?

While it seems odd and outlandish to have influencers running the big screen with little to no experience, there is a prominent reason as to why. Producers have noticed that the popularity of influencers is on the rise and their relatability to the public eye is undeniable. Therefore what’s the best and easiest marketing strategy to skyrocket viewership and ratings? Pull in those who have pre-existing large and loyal followings. 

Such producers include that of The Amazing Race. They realized they could revive their long-standing broadcast by driving more awareness through networking internet stars like popular YouTubers Tyler Oakley, Joey Graceffa, and Blair Fowler. They even reached out to former Vine stars, Instagram models, and gamers to pull in a combined social reach of 33 million.

tyler-oakly-the-amazing-race

And they aren’t the only ones recognizing that this low-budget promotional tool and quick exposure boost is the way to go. Tyler Perry’s Madea series went on to feature several social media influencers and ended up grossing $75 million on a $20 million budget. The jump in financial success points fingers to the cast of influencers…which tells us this is just the beginning for influencers in the mainstream media world.

Closing Thoughts

As society quickly gravitates towards more technology, instant-everything, and swipe-happy attention spans, it may also begin producing a not so positive effect on the entertainment industry as we know it. Soon enough, high-level films will be hard to come by as influencers begin to dominate the field. And a once proud entity of connecting with people through storytelling will become just another measure to increase false popularity and boost empty numbers.

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