The Changing Face of Screen Performance
9 Introduction For more than a century, people have lived alongside images dis- played on screens — at the movies, on television, via computers and, more recently, on personal digital media devices such as smart phones and tablets. Since the beginnings of cinema, audiences have been captivated by the way people perform on those screens. At first, audi- ences were spellbound by the novelty of seeing the actuality of people in everyday situations represented as moving images. Before long, however, dramatic (and comedic) performances and narratives became the staple of cinematic content, and by the first decade of the twentieth century, the movie star had become a significant part of the public imaginary.1 In terms of mainstream narrative cinema, of course, most of the performers that we watch are professional actors. As we will explore, however, screen acting in fictional films is only one aspect — albeit a highly significant aspect — of the myriad of performances that take place on the media screens that surround us. In our media- saturated environment, it would be unusual for most of us to go a day without being exposed to screen performances of one sort or another. This book is about screen performance: The changing nature of the performances that we watch on screen, and the significance of our relationship to those performances. Perceptions of screen acting have always been complexly inter- twined with notions of celebrity and stardom, and with our own de- sires as spectators. There is undoubtedly a feeling of familiarity that...
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