"Within the reality of one specific fiction, how do other fictions exist?
— Chuck Klosterman
A Celebrity Paradox describes the complications that arise from creating a fictional universe in which that fictional universe does not exist, and the actors playing roles within it do not exist either.
So, in The Sarah Connor Chronicles
, Arnold Schwarzenegger
doesn't exist and is not the governor of California. There's no Guvernator. Or, in the world of Batman Begins
, the Batman
comics never existed, and neither did Christian Bale
In modern updates of a work, the original may be unheard of. Writers get a li'l kick out of toying around with the concept, such as having the character meet the actor/actress playing them or giving a Shout-Out
to the original source
. Cameos of famous actors or artists may either be in the form of Recursive Canon
or Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman
This avoids such awkward issues as why the plucky hero isn't constantly asked for autographs. It can become extremely awkward when the show is set amongst the showbiz industry, and the stars and writers become famous enough to be on the scene where the show finds itself. Also, if a larger-than-life celebrity was chosen to play a nerd, a geek, or a loser (for example, Hilary Duff
in A Cinderella Story
) — that would also be extremely awkward.
To what extent this is done is a subject for discussions amongst fans. Do the actors themselves not exist? Do other works the actors have appeared in exist? If they do, who starred in them? It's probably best not to overthink
these, but some impulsive connections are bound to occur. If taken far enough, such speculation can overlap with the Literary Agent Hypothesis
. (In fact the Literary Agent Hypothesis
may be the best way out of the paradox: the Tenth Doctor doesn't actually
look like David Tennant
any more than Erin Brockovich
really looks like Julia Roberts
If the actors or their works do not exist, this implies an In Spite of a Nail Alternate Universe
. As an example, actress Jeri Ryan divorced her husband to play Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager
(he refused to move to Hollywood with her). The divorce was contentious, and a lot of salacious dirt was spilled. When Jack Ryan ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 2004, the release of the divorce documents forced him to withdraw, allowing his challenger to win in a landslide against a last-ditch replacement. The landslide victory propelled the challenger, Barack Obama
, to a position from which he could then launch a campaign for President, and... well, you know the rest. But the paradox is, do you think it says that in Voyager
's historical database? Of course not.
Many a show or movie trying to be hyper-realistic does its best to distill this concept to an extent by refusing to cast a Celebrity Star
because he or she is not obscure enough and would be too recognizable, as it strains Willing Suspension of Disbelief
. Of course, if the star becomes
famous because of said work, the same issues could still pop up.
Note that, in Animated Series
, the Celebrity Paradox wouldn't be as big of an issue. After all, in this type of medium, the characters wouldn't necessarily resemble the actors who do the voices of them. Additionally, the paradox may be avoided if the work is a Period Piece
set before the actors were famous. So, for example, no one in Raiders of the Lost Ark
can wonder why Indy looks exactly like Harrison Ford
because the film is set before Harrison Ford was even born. Perhaps, the paradox may also be avoided in works that take place in the far future
— when the actors are likely to be forgotten. And it's avoided completely in Constructed World
fiction, of course.
Certain Setting Updates
can face a similar problem: they have to be set in a world where no one will recognize the name of Sherlock Holmes
, or Macbeth
, or the tropes that they've since made popular, but are otherwise culturally identical to the real world. Again, it's best to just not think about it
The answer usually gone with is the simplest one — things went the same way, but in place of the actor or show that could not exist, it was a very similar
actor or show. This actually appears in Last Action Hero
, as the image above shows. Jeri Ryan probably moved to Hollywood because she got cast in Battlestar Pegasus: The Geminon Years
. Nobody in Fringe
notices that William Bell looks just like Mr. Spock because, in their universe(s), Spock was played by Christopher Lee
. And so on.
Playing with this is a form of Post Modernism
. Actor Allusion
can be a form of playing with this. Contrast Your Costume Needs Work
and compare Recursive Canon
, see also Different World, Different Movies
Of course, in real life, there are plenty of people who closely resemble celebrities and go about their business without being mistaken for them. Maybe we're all in a movie