Shia LaBeouf: Artistic Narcissist or Viral Genius?


If you haven’t heard already, Shia LaBeouf has minutes ago wrapped up his 72 hour marathon watching his movies. The thing is, he set up a live stream of himself…watching his movies. yeah. In New York City’s Angelika Film Centre, he sat through, in reverse chronological order–I can only assume so that people would see his better works first, for three days. AND, you could watch him watch his movies for the entire time that he was watching his movies…wherever you were in the world. HERE is a link to some of the feed that was recorded.

I can only assume that millions have tuned in to see what the big deal was about. He made news headlines, the story hit viral on multiple sites, twitter exploded with people who were watching or were in the theater with Shia watching, facebook tossed around his live stream site, etc, etc. Some were tasked to watch as much as they could to take snapshots of all the best moments of Shia watching his films. At roughly 7pm East Coast time, the marathon ended with Shia getting up and walking out of the theater to everyone applauding. He shook three hands on the way out, but then it was over. As quickly as it began, it ended.

I would say that I watched about 30-40 min of his live stream. Some yesterday, and some today after work. I made sure to catch the end of it. I have to say, I had some thoughts about the whole thing during and after it was all over. It’s not news to me that in the past five years or so, Shia has been branching out artistically. He will do things to make people think, or to seemingly shock and awe people. People would think him weird and odd. Some would say that he has mental issues or that he’s “not all there.” I wouldn’t be so quick to label Shia in this way.

Artists have the keen ability to cause reaction. It’s kind of what they are in the business of doing. Whether it’s movies or on a canvas. Theatre or performance piece. Abstract or sculpture. It doesn’t matter. They are all trying to make you feel something…experience something. So what was Shia doing? Was he acting out Narcissistically? Was he so totally full of himself that he invited everyone to come enjoy himself with himself? Was this another weird, oddball artistic performance piece that cause the viewer to say, “Why Shia?? Why?” Or, did Shia know exactly what he was doing. Like the “Just Do It,” green screen viral video before that, his SIA music videos, or the Shia LaBeouf Live video. They all are apart of his viral presence. Knock him all you want, but Shia has his finger on the pulse of what it means to be known. His craft of “going viral” is well tuned. Whether this is what he meant to do or not is neither here or there.

In an interview he did for a magazine I read a long time ago, I remember Shia saying that he used to drive his motorcycle on the highway, then stop on the side of the highway, get off his bike, and wait for someone to notice him. That’s a very poignant thing to say. Fame isn’t the easiest thing to grapple with. When you’re a kid, and you’re a happening star….one minute you mean THE WORLD to everyone. Then, as time goes on, people care less, and you mean NOTHING to anyone. That can be a hard thing for someone to grow up with.

In the Angelika Film Centre, Shia watched his entire life’s work. He watched it with other people. Vulnerable, exposed, and mute. He didn’t respond when an actual viewer, at the end of “Man Down,” said, “That was s***. I just watched a piece of s***” I think about a man watching everything that he has done in his career fly by in a haze of popcorn, coughing, shuffling, yawning, soda drinking, and whispering. There is fragility there that I’m sure was witnessed by those seeing it…if not by himself. I wonder if he thought, “This…this is my life’s work,”…and then thought, “Could I do better? Was it well spent? Did it have purpose?”

There were moments in the haze where you got to see the joy that Shia takes in the work that he does. Maybe a bit of embarrassment as well. I really want to know what film he was watching when this moment happened, but it looked pretty great for everyone.

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But most of the moments looked a lot like this:

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This last photo was a snapshot I took seconds before the final veil dropped on the final movie. He wasn’t sleeping, even though his eyes were closed. They were only closed for a second. But, I wonder if in this moment, he felt the weight of what he did, and whatever it meant to him.

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SO…

What did it mean to anyone else? Well that’s art isn’t it…the meaning is subjective.

To me, I thought what Shia did was kind of cool. I’ve always liked Shia, even when he started doing some weird stuff. There’s something about his total commitment to something that is oddly entrancing. Yes, I initially thought, “Why Shia, why??”, and also, “This is pretty weird. Another ‘Shia stunt’ strikes again.” And ultimately, in the scope of things, WAY too much of a deal was made about this than it probably deserved, and yes, I am not helping it by writing about it. STILL. I write about things that make it’s way past the surface and go deeper, and I think that for whatever reason, this did.

If you have thoughts about it, feel free to comment. That’s all.

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