Reflectors vs. Absorbers: A Hollywood Theory for Why Romney-Ryan Will Lose

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It's not their policies that will sink them. It's their optics.
Here's why the Romney-Ryan ticket is a turn-off to voters and why they won't win in November, and it isn't only about their granny-starving, wealth-worshiping policies. The secret to the scary-bad vibe these guys give off as potential president and vice president lies in something a Hollywood veteran taught me 20 years ago: They're both "absorbers."

In the movie business, my screenwriter-director friend explained, there's a theory about what makes films (and TV shows) succeed or fail. It's all about the casting. And the casting depends on the chemistry of the stars. And onscreen chemistry can be simplified this way: Some people are reflectors and some are absorbers. You cast accordingly.

Being one or the other has little to do with how pretty or sexy someone is, though that is part of it. The qualities of reflecting or absorbing are more ephemeral. Basically, some human beings reflect light naturally and some seem to absorb it. Some give off a positive attitude and express believable sincerity, and some have something darker lurking just beneath the surface. Many great actors seem like they're lit from within, beaming it outward, and others, just as great acting-wise, are the dark entities, drawing light into themselves.

It's why Meryl Streep, a three-time Oscar-winning million-watt reflector, can't play a villain convincingly. Reflectors play heroes. They're the ones you love to see come out on top. Yes, she played Maggie Thatcher, whom some would regard as villainous politically. But the real Maggie was a gigantic reflector. That's why she was a political superstar. Ditto Ronald Reagan, a reflector who became a bigger heroic figure as president than he ever was as a movie actor (he usually played either a goofy romantic lead or a good guy who died young, typical reflector roles).

Absorbers are more believable playing antagonists to the reflectors' protagonists. They make good anti-heroes and sexy-but-troublesome lovers. Think about some classic successful reflector/absorber teams in the movies: Ginger Rogers (reflector) and Fred Astaire (absorber); Lauren Bacall (reflector) and Humphrey Bogart (absorber); Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart; Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart; Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

Bogart was the perfect actor-absorber, able to play a bad guy or a romantic lead opposite Hollywood's most beautiful reflectors. In Casablanca opposite Bergman, his absorber qualities were used to great effect by director Michael Curtiz, who kept Bogey's character Rick almost always in partial shadow; Bergman got the light. Directors used to know better how to use the reflector-absorber qualities of their stars. Alfred Hitchcock employed it perfectly in Psycho - reflector Janet Leigh seemed to give off a golden glow even in the black and white cinematography; villain Anthony Perkins, a natural absorber as an actor, was bathed in darkness.

More recently, examples of successful reflector-absorber match-ups in movies include absorber Ben Affleck doing his best work opposite reflector-buddy Matt Damon. Reflector Amy Adams is delightful opposite charming absorbers like Jason Segel (who, interestingly, is now involved in real life with reflector Michelle Williams). Absorber Vince Vaughn found an ideal reflecting co-star in Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers. And Vaughn was pretty good opposite reflector Jennifer Aniston in The Break-Up. The problem with Vaughn is, he tries to be a reflector. He should always let his co-stars do the shining.

Why did we love The Artist? Why did it win all those Oscars? Because Jean Dujardin is a supernova reflector and every frame of that movie was designed to amplify it. Why is Christian Bale so good as Batman? Because actor and character are classic absorbers.

Top reflectors in movies now: Streep, Emma Stone, Anne Hathaway, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Jason Bateman, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Diane Keaton (still).

Top absorbers:

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16 comments
cesar39nt
cesar39nt

GEE lotsa reTHUGliCON S here today, and they sure hate the reflector absorb-er theory, even though it seems to be hitting right on,they don't like this evaluation? why argue the point if anyone votes reTHUG they're condemning their lower middle income friends & relatives to a life on public welfare & joblessness! while yet boosting their own incomes at the cost of family friends and ex coworkers, that make sense to any NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS OUT THERE? after all with romney wealthy will get wealthier faster, middle will become extinct and human rights will evaporate, D.C. is filled with re Thugs that are more interested in obstructing help, while the general population of the United States of America suffers, just so they can stop progress on job creation and advancement of people! our congress got full pay to twiddle their thumbs for four years while we went broke, is that a fair trade for lower tax incentives for the wealthy? you pay their bill, while our incomes dwindle away, and don't forget to smile when you they ask you are you happy losing your homes?admittedly O's having a hard time pushing but you remember pushing your car off the road while you go get gas? when you were dating? well with a reTHUGliCON vote we will surely get worse off than we are now! your families will be pushing with you, or carrying your furniture as you walk, and Fido will have to drag his dog house along while tied to it, remember the leash laws !

tom10545az
tom10545az

is this just another 10,000 word opinion of giver/taker. ohhh, nooo, we are reflectors(givers)/absorbers(takers)..totally different....yeah, yeah, its not a duck...its a swan...cause i said so?

 

just scratch out giver and put in reflector and scratch out absorber in put in taker....so instead of the "evil takers" we have the "evil absorbers"....and cloak it in a political opinion(statement)..really?

tom10545az
tom10545az

ok, time to wake up from never-never land, obama is going to lose for one reason and one reason..i dont care how much name calling goes on, who is pissing on who and how often, doesnt matter who has more mone...me or the other guy,he is by far(remember jimmy carter) the worst prez in american history...period...you can distract all they want. he is going to find out what every american knows, you keep "your job" based on YOUR job performance...and thats it.

hell, obama is still blaming the last employee before him(guess who that is?) would you hire an employee who...after 4 years of bad job performance, blame it on the "employee before me"...

 

they maybe only opinions, but at least they are my own.

barryguitar
barryguitar

I could actually accept this premiss except that you have missed the mark about Paul Ryan. Speak to his friends, consult his fellow church members, ask his peers in Congress how they would describe his light reflecting/ absorbing qualities and you will find this man to be a great Beacon of truth and light. Romney, not so much. But according to the theory you proposed, That is considered a winning combination. The inability to see Paul Ryan for the shining light that he is can only be attributed to liberal reality distortion disorder.

 

Andrew Davis
Andrew Davis

would he not loose cause of who he is, and being liars should not get you all the way to potus, yes here in America a liar can go far in life its what kind of civilization we have built ! religious people have power , when they are the last 1s that should !

tiana.aldora
tiana.aldora

How does Biden shine so much?  His skin sparkles more than a Twilight vampire.

 

This theory reminds me of a few things... one is a quote from the Neverending Story, "Your heart is not in this work. If I thought it was horrible we wouldn't be discussing this right now. Now you are a bright girl I'm sure. There is a lot of potential here. We just need to see if we can make it shine."  But I agree with Liner - you can't make someone shine.

 

It also reminds me of a sexist Mad Men quote about a light going off in women when they turn 30.  Do people glow less as they age?  Not if Biden is the example!  Like him or not, that man is a lamp. 

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Interesting theory but don't buy it, I think the Hollywood theory that applies is "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made."

rami.nauja
rami.nauja

I agree with your premise that people desire this balance, but what I find interesting is the obvious other premise that you mentioned, but gave little thought to. Which is, people can switch from reflector to absorber or vice versa.  Mark my words come election time Mitt Romney will appear what you describe as a "reflector". All he has to do is tell America what they want to hear and get more animated... Not to mention that unless Obama gets Biden off his ticket you will have a "double absorber" ticket for the Dems as well. Whether you want to admit or you don't; Obama is not viewed the same as he was in his first election by the majority of the population. Particularly with educated voters, college aged voters, and women voters. Romney chose Ryan because of a few reasons, but mainly because he falls a bit further right than himself on the political scale, without seeming too extreme. (The reason he didn't pick Rand Paul as a running mate) That will be enough to create the balance I think you are referring to in this article.

J_A_
J_A_

Shit, I just realized I'm the absorber in my marriage. Great read!

daltexmex
daltexmex

@Dallas_Observer good thing you are not in charge solely of picking the next President.

Clay
Clay

I thoroughly enjoyed this. 

RR12
RR12

I love your writing, but I disagree with your premise.

 

I voted for Mr. Obama, and still think he's a good person, but he had a Super Majority, and his own party failed him, time and time and time again.

 

Mr. Ryan seems to articulate traditional Republican values in a way I haven't seen in many years.   I appreciate the sense of solvency I get now about his party.

 

Please, commentors, if you can, keep the thread out of the ditch. 

TLS1
TLS1

I never heard of this somewhat wacky theory before but even among the regular people I know the best couples are a reflector/absorber or reflector/reflector duo.  

OMG_LOL
OMG_LOL

 @RR12 I love your last sentence!  Comment threads below any political article recently are horrendous, name-calling shouting matches.  No rational debate on policies.

 

 

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