Director, actor and musician Adrian Grenier visited the Student Union Theater last Monday as SGA’s 43rd Annual Robert F. Kennedy Symposium keynote speaker.
Grenier, best known for his current role on the HBO series “Entourage,” and past roles in “Drive Me Crazy” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” delivered a strong, inspirational message on his Teenage Paparazzo Empowerment Tour, discussing the intense world of the media and celebrities while exploring the reason behind America’s obsession with the famous.
“SGA feels that Mr. Grenier has some very recognizable qualities while also having an important message, making him an ideal candidate to increase student interest while maintaining the event’s fundamental goal of acquainting students with modern day issues,” said SGA President Jay Devineni.
The night began with a screening of the “Teenage Paparazzi” documentary, which shines light on the high-paced and desperate world of paparazzi and its relationship with the famous. The film focuses on a unique individual, 13-year-old Austin Visschedyk, who ventures into the depths of Hollywood during the middle of the night to capture photos of celebrities.
The question of the night was, “Why do we care so much about these images of celebrities?”
One answer is that people as a society develop a para-social relationship with actors. It is a fabricated, one-way relationship where people think they have relationships with celebrities on TV. Movies and publications only support this feeling. It makes people feel like they are a part of something.
Celebrity roles have changed over time. With the increased outlets for media including Twitter and other online tabloid news sources, the demand for celebrity photos has increased. In the past, actors maintained a certain distance from the public, but celebrity gossip has grown increasingly popular as technology advances. People want to see their famous relationships, fashion, the cars they drive and the houses they live in.
Throughout the documentary Grenier interviewed various celebrities about their view on paparazzi.
“They follow you everywhere and they never stop,” Matt Damon said.
Disagreeing, Paris Hilton said, “I make a living of them photographing me…being in Hollywood you also need them.”
An interesting spin was when Grenier decided to examine the other side as a paparazzi photographer. He joined Visschedyk in chasing down celebrities on the streets of Los Angeles. Visschedyk took him along on the high-speed adventure and taught him what it takes to be paparazzi.
Throughout the film, Visschedyk started developing his own fame with the media as the teenage paparazzi. Media outlets wanted to share his story and capture him. Grenier realized he had to take responsibility for what Visschedyk was about to be a part of.
Grenier showed Visschedyk and his mother the movie “Teenage Paparazzi” to reveal how his upcoming fame could mold him into something he might not want to become. Visschedyk’s mother even asked him if there was more to life than celebrities. A year later when Grenier visited him, his self-reflection was finally complete. He matured and saw the importance of privacy and respect, and that there’s more to life than chasing celebrities.
After the film Grenier had an open discussion with the audience. He brought up the importance of teachers and how, similar to celebrities, they have an influence on others.
“But do we go back and re-Tweet our teachers all the time? Do celebrities have any meaningful influence on people?” asked Grenier.
Afterward, Grenier showcased his artwork outside the theater, which was inspired by topics in the film. Students had the opportunity to meet Grenier. As some only wanted a photo with Grenier and then left, others stayed to chat.
“Why would you leave if you can stay here and talk to someone who has so many stories to tell?” asked senior Becca Sterling.
The Empowerment Tour has stopped at many universities with the main goal of empowering students to take an active role in media to utilize technology and to communicate in a responsible way in order to enable society to grow positively.