Imagine this. You are flying high on celebrity cloud nine. Famous for your continuously unpredictable behavior, you are Hollywood’s resident “bad boy” and you even have the 24-hour rugged, unshaven look to prove it. You curse, you brawl, you drink and you sleep around with shameless abandon and amazingly enough, the public approves. Oh and did I mention that you’re foreign? Foreign in the only way that Hollywood allows: English-speaking but without that boring American accent. Women gush over your objectively obnoxious yet somehow appealing brand of masculinity as well as your accent while men futilely attempt to emanate your behavior but never with the same results. After all, finding the line between “sexy bad boy” and “extreme asshole” is a meticulous process that often escapes the average, accent-less man. Fresh off a big-budget historical epic directed by a respected member of the Hollywood pantheon, you are also rocking the boat of monetary success.
So basically things are going more than spectacularly in the life of you. You, being who exactly? If you guessed Russell Crowe, circa 2000, you would be extremely half-right because my somewhat specific description can also be applicable to Colin Farrell, circa 2004. Hollywood thrives on exploiting successful formulas and as the saying goes, “If it works, don’t fix it.” So when Russell “telephonez-moi” Crowe seemed to have given up his wife-stealing, people-punching ways by getting married and starting to shave on a regular basis, a replacement was quickly found.
The idea of repetition is by no means confined to this one example alone. Think back to the battle of the blonde teen queens a la Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Bound by the common background of both being ex-Mickey Mouse Club members that were now maximizing the lucrative pairing of bare midriffs with teasing song lyrics, Britney and Christina were always rumored to be feuding. A battle that divided friendships, inspired internet communities and obviously occupied too much of my time, the late ’90s was all about whether you supported one or the other.
Then it all changed. Christina got “dirty” and Britney got married twice, both times not to Justin Timberlake. Audiences once entranced by the two were now moving on to other things, namely, adulthood and a new generation of teens were left without any blonde teases to support. The industry needed replacements fast and frantically churned out two rushed copies even more ridiculous than the originals. Enter Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan, bound by the common background of both being ex-girlfriends of Aaron Carter who could not sing. Rumors of feuding spread like wildfire, expertly timed with movie releases and CD releases. The two played innocent at first, but soon played up to the stories with mutual cold-shoulder sessions and most recently, a race to see who could master anorexia faster.
The clone syndrome is one that afflicts multiple archetypes of the entertainment universe and although there have been successes (Aaliyah? Ashanti?) and some failures (Alexander was definitely no Gladiator), the trend continues. After all, there remains one seat that has been vacant for far too long in the lonely land of celebrity and unless we can find that illustrious Julia Roberts-status leading-lady, the Hollywood machine will continue churning out second-tier replacements that never quite hit the mark.
Archived article by Tracy Zhang Arts and Entertainment Editor