in movies

What’s so appealing about Mark Wahlberg? 

Kaitlyn Tiffany, writing for The Verge about the rise of Mark Wahlberg, and why so many enjoy his work:

He’s perfect for this part mostly because there’s nothing special about him at all. Mark Wahlberg isn’t smart. He’s not particularly handsome or charming. He’s more like a potato sack upon which any American male can project an image of himself saving the world. Wahlberg notoriously commented in a 2012 interview that he could have prevented the attacks on the World Trade Center had he been aboard one of the planes. Though he later apologized, the statement provides a window into what makes his type of movie appealing — you get to live out a fantasy it’s inappropriate to articulate.

Maybe the most sinister thing about Wahlberg’s role in American culture then, is that his life itself is such an appealing fantasy: after all, what’s more American than knowing your repugnantly racist past won’t hold you back from further success? What’s sexier than redeeming yourself by saving the innocent over and over, on a screen 30 feet tall? It is, broadly, shameful and weird to fantasize about what you would do in the midst of death and destruction — but with Mark, you can. You’d be that guy.

Wahlberg’s self-aggrandizing work on Patriot’s Day has struck a nerve for many of my Boston film critic colleagues. For more, see Ty Burr’s review and Sean Burns’ review of the film (See also: Ty Burr’s suggestions on how to make the movie better. Love that last one).

  • Ave

    This is in no way an attempt to defend his past – but how many of us should be judged for our decisions made as teenagers, or even in our early 20s? Many have regrettable teen years. The guy wasn’t a saint, but it seems unfair to suggest that his horrible decisions as a teen should follow him forever. To suggest he should perpetually PAY for these actions is part of the vindictive problem that is American culture.

    David, you’re citing perhaps the most cynical, irrational writer from The Verge as a notable journalistic effort.

    • Firstly, I think you bring up a good point about evaluating Mark Wahlberg more holistically.

      Secondly, I’m not super familiar with Kaitlyn Tiffany’s work but I appreciated a lot of the points she made in this specific piece (which is why I shared it). I also think the piece is less about Wahlberg’s past crimes and more about why Wahlberg remains such an appealing figure for America today.

      Finally, I’ve seen this “This is what drove me away from the /Filmcast entirely” sentiment a few times in the past year and to be honest I don’t really know what to do with it. My podcasting and online work has always arose from an attempt to give voice to my passions and amplify what resonates with me. That hasn’t changed.

      When people say things like “That’s why I stopped listening to you,” my first question is: Then why did you listen in the first place? Sure, maybe I’ve gotten more strident on certain views over time. I’ve also changed as a person over time. I can only be me. When people say things like that, it makes me feel like they want me to change who I am. Unfortunately, it’s just not something I can do. I can only be me.