“Lauren, why do you hate Shia LaBeouf?”
Oh, imaginary composite of many friends, what a complex and difficult question. This little space is insufficient for a full explanation as to why I hate Shia LaBeouf (and, in fact, I have attempted to elucidate it once before). But allow me to clarify one point: I do not hate Shia Labeouf. That is to say, I do hate Shia LaBeouf. I hate his acting, his off-screen persona, his stupid haircut, his facial hair and his dumb-puppy/sleazy hipster expression. But I also love him so much – I love all the idiotic things he says, all the self-centered douchiness, all the backhanded compliments of real actors like Tom Hardy. I love that he thinks he’s a Method actor because he once drank moonshine and that totally also makes him a badass. I love him so much that I wrote an entire article, on this very site, about how much I hate him. God, Shia LaBeouf. You’re just so complicated.
What confuses people is just how much I love to hate Shia LaBeouf. Every time an article pops up about Shia LaBeouf, I just have to read it. He’s like my Moriarty. Without him, what would I do with my life?
So, what of this phenomenon that I like to call “Actors I Want To Punch In The Face For No Discernible Reason”? Why do some actors just get on our nerves – even if they don’t provoke the same sort of intense feeling of disgust and loathing in others? You know that you have them. You know that somewhere in a your deep subconscious, whenever a particular face comes on the screen, you just … really want to punch it. Who is it? What actor do you completely, totally love to hate?
First, a word about the word ‘hate.’ Obviously, I do not know any major Hollywood celebrities (unless you count the time Dennis Hopper totally thanked me, or when Yoko Ono almost ran me over with her suitcase. Or when I sat behind James Franco for a whole semester). So I do not know these people and I cannot hate them as human beings. But you know, I also hate Mitt Romney and Hitler and I’ve never met them either. I can safely say that I would want to punch them in the face too.
And I have the same reaction to Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen. There is a smugness, a self-satisfaction, in each of those very different actors that get at the very core of my being. Rudd and Rogen are so incredibly aware of themselves, of their cleverness and their charm, that it comes through on the screen. They’re lovable scamps, and don’t they know it. Paul Rudd is the type of man I despise. A man far too sure of himself, far too aware of his supposed attractions. A man who thinks he’s the most impressive, adorable thing on the planet. He’s the sort of guy who comes up to you at the bar and cannot understand why on earth you don’t want to sleep with him because he’s just so cute and quirky!
When it comes to Shia Labeouf or Keira Knightley, I know why I want to punch them in the face. But there are others that leave me at a loss. I have an immediate and vitriolic hatred for Christian Bale. For real, it keeps me up at night. But with every film I see him in (with the exception of his performance in the Batman franchise), I admit that he’s a good actor. American Psycho? Great. Rescue Dawn? Amazing. The Machinist? Let’s face it, the guy’s remarkable. So why does his screen persona, which changes with each of those films, just piss me off? And why do I not have the same reaction to Russell Crowe, who is arguably a worse actor and more obnoxious human being?
Personal preference is of course the central issue here. There are just some actors that just get on your nerves, with neither rhyme nor reason. Maybe they remind you of an ex-boyfriend, or the girl who was mean to you in middle school. Maybe they reach into the regions of your subconscious and recall someone who terrified you as a small child. Maybe they just remind you of tossers who think they’re God’s gift to the rest of humanity.
The fact is that there is something pleasurable in being provoked to extremities of feeling. There can be something as enjoyable, in small doses, about watching an actor you despise as there is about watching an actor you love. It’s like watching a bad movie because it’s bad, loving it for being so bad. I enjoyed Lawless a lot more because I could sit there and rip on Shia Labeouf – if he’d been a better actor, it would have been a worse movie.
Perhaps our onscreen hatreds are as important as our onscreen loves. It would be difficult if I simply had an adoring reaction to every single actor or actress I encountered. I might have stronger reactions to some actors than most, but that is part of what I enjoy about movies. They provoke powerful reactions. Sometimes, that reaction is wanting to punch an actor in the face.