no name

I was on Netflix, cruising around, browsing for new DVDs to add to my queue, when I came across the blurb for the movie Bubble. I tend to like quirky, off-beat, independent type films. Then I noticed that this film is by Steven Soderbergh. Not necessarily in the so-called indie genre then. But it has that kind of a feel. I read a bit further.

Set in a crumbling Ohio town that revolves around the local doll factory, Steven Soderbergh’s offbeat film follows the antics of townsfolk turned detectives who try to unravel a murder mystery — and end up discovering a bizarre love triangle. In sharp contrast to his high-budget Ocean’s Eleven remake, Soderbergh uses low-cost digital camerawork and employs no-name actors in this quirky small-town drama.

Of course I’ve heard the term “no-name” used before to indicate someone who is not famous, who does not have a specific box office draw. However, it really bothered me. I started to really think about it, maybe even obsess over it a little.

How do the actors, Dustin James Ashley, Katherine Beaumier, Joyce Brookhart, Ross Clegg, Decker Moody, Leonora K. Hornbeck, Debbie Doebereiner, Misty Dawn Wilkins, K. Smith, and Daniel R. Christian like being called “no-name?” Beyond that, do they see themselves as “no-names?” Isn’t the fact that they have these names a direct conflict with the whole notion of being a “no-name?”

Is it belittling or disparaging to say that someone is a no-name? Don’t we remove some of their identity when we do this?

I wasn’t sure if this was the studio’s official release or not, so I went to the official movie site. It doesn’t actually say anything and the only link that works directed me to Best Buy where I could buy the movie. They write

Steven Soderbergh followed up his slick, star-studded sequel, Ocean’s Twelve, with Bubble, a small-town drama about workers in a doll factory, played by a cast of unknowns.

A cast of unknowns seems to be a better choice than no-names because it’s probably closer to the truth (although unknown is tricky, too, isn’t it? I mean, who are they unknown to? Certainly not family, friends, agents, managers, one another, etc.).

Ok. They are both discouraging terms when describing the cast. They seem like dirty words in some way. Isn’t there something better? Ingenue? A cast of talented actors? Why do they have to point this out at all? Is it because Soderbergh is known for his big blockbuster movies with casts of well-known actors like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and others? The writers are making not-so-subtle comparisons, and I don’t see the point. The targeted audiences for the two films seem to be very different. The styles of the movies are different. If you’re going to compare the types of casts (especially when the audience of Bubble would probably not care who is in the movie), then it seems like a pointless waste of valuable blurb real estate.

It’s almost as if the writers of these blurbs were thinking of a way to sell this movie to an Ocean’s Twelve audience, trying to pull them in, without really thinking about the audience, a more indie-oriented audience, they could have. It’s ok to appeal to various audiences. But it’s not effective to do it in a way that divides your audiences. It certainly doesn’t seem to have been effective for the underrated Bubble and the no-name unknowns who were cast to act in it.

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