Middlebrow: Shia LaBeouf And The Performance Art Of #Sympathy

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 09:  Shia LaBeouf attends the 'Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version)' premiere during 64th Berlinal
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 09: Shia LaBeouf attends the 'Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version)' premiere during 64th Berlinale International Film Festival at Berlinale Palast on February 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Target Presse Agentur Gmbh/WireImage)

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If Shia LaBeouf held your hand while tears rolled down his cheeks, would you feel bad for him? Would you question the effects of fame and childhood stardom or would you just wonder if crying was another thing that could effectively be plagiarized? Dubious veracity aside, the question may demand our (actual) attention.

In his latest don't look at me move, LeBeouf stars in his own performance art exhibition, #IAMSORRY, in which the actor occasionally weeps behind his infamous paper bag. Why? Because, as the press release reads, “Shia LaBeouf is sorry. Sincerely sorry."

But what's he apologizing for? The plagiarism? The bar fights? The drunk driving? Here's what we know for certain: LaBeouf is ... going through something. This is clear even to those of us who don’t have time to watch him blatantly rip off emulate the work of Marina Abramovic while crying.

Beginning with his Disney stardom, LaBeouf was catapulted into a realm of commercial success ("Transformers," "Indiana Jones 4") that seemed to be difficult for him to handle (i.e., Bieber-ian rebellion, bar fights, other things that involve alcohol). He has since attempted to reinvent himself by selecting roles that he associates with respectability ("Lawless," "Nymphomaniac"). But despite this push to be viewed as an artiste, LaBeouf has struggled to emerge as a public figure who ought to be taken seriously.

After earning an unsavory reputation as someone who basically couldn't walk into a bar without head-butting or plagiarizing someone, he set out to frame all of his behavior as an act. However, he has only succeeded in further compounding our inability to understand what he is trying so desperately to be.


As he writhes in and out of the spotlight, most recently showing up at the Berlin film festival wearing a paper bag on his head, we have to wonder if LaBeouf is deserving of something beyond a raised eyebrow. We observe celebrities from such a distant place of voyeurism, that sometimes it's easy to forget that they just so happen to be humans.

Former child stars often attempt to define themselves by seeking outright rebellion (as we’re currently seeing with Justin Bieber). But all too often they struggle with drug abuse and mental health, as was the case with Macaulay Culkin and Amanda Bynes. In all of these instances, the instinct is one of armchair criticism. Of course, this is not to say that LaBeouf shouldn’t be #SORRY. He has reason to cry behind his “not famous” veil. But if our culture insists we keep watching and maybe that’s why he’s putting on a show.

Everything Else You Need To Know:

  • Kristen Stewart's "bitchy resting face" now has an explanation and that explanation is: poetry. That's right. All of these times when we've been wondering about how KStewart can be so angry and bored, she has actually been writing poetry in her head! And her inaugural work "My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball / Freedom Pole" is published for us all to read and be enlightened / confused by.
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  • Following homophobic remarks and blatant slut-shaming on "The Bachelor," Juan Pablo has received quite a bit of deserved criticism. Read Brandy Zadrozny's Daily Beast article on how he ruined the show here.
  • As of Tuesday, Lena Dunham's book officially has a release date and a cover, which is a big deal, because it's the result of a $3.7 million book proposal (read: a TON of money) and also because now we can actually get to know Lena / stop willfully conflating her with her character from the hit show "Girls."
  • Earlier this week, NFL prospect Michael Sam came out to a horrifically intolerant reaction from NFL executives. Despite the fact that his bravery has been acknowledged by the likes of Barack Obama, there is speculation that Sam's sexuality will prevent him from being drafted. For more on the subject, check out Josh Levin's piece on Sam's role as a groundbreaker over at Slate.
  • Also, Justin Bieber is still peeing all over the place.
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