Andy Warhol
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Within our societal realm, there exists a “tension between I, the spontaneous self, and me, social constraints within the self”, which represents the “crucial discrepancy between our all-too-human selves and our socialized selves” (Ritzer, 224). According to Erving Goffman, as members of society we suffer from such “tension” as a result of who we really are and who society expects us to be. The latter, referred to as the Performing Self, is comprised of three integral components: performance, creativity, and authenticity. In analyzing the Performing Self, we may beseech a most appropriate illustrator…Andy Warhol.

Central to Goffman and microsociology is the concept of skillful interaction and performance. Because observation and interaction are fundamental concepts in perspective, we strive to “impress” society with our “selves”, thus employing “props”, “scripts”, and “costumes” to perfect our images. Warhol is perhaps one of the most ideal performers among effective social actors. With his silver wig, chalk-white skin, black sunglasses, his tape recorder, and his raw, blatant speech, Warhol is an epitome of performance. Before we may truly assess the degree to which he was successful, however, it is crucial to understand the underlying principles of social performances.

“In all social interaction there is a front region [and a back region]” (Ritzer, 73). The term front region refers to the so-called “stage front”, on which the social actor leads his social life, is structured to form the basis of other people’s perceptions of him; it is where he utilizes his props, scripts, and costumes. The back region may be thought in terms of “backstage” or “offstage” and is essentially where the actors “can shed their roles and be themselves” (Ritzer, 73). The front may be subdivided into the setting and the personal front. The setting is simply the “physical scene that ordinarily must be there if the actors are to perform” (Ritzer, 225). Within the personal front subsists appearance and manner; appearance lends the social actor his “social status”, while manner is the actor’s demeanor which “warns us of the interaction role the performer will expect to play” (qtd. in Presentation of Self). For Warhol, his front is “Andy Warhol”.

Perhaps the most important elements to “Andy Warhol” and his performance are his appearance and manner. The former are his costume—wig, sunglasses, white makeup—and his props, most importantly, tape recorder with which he records others; the latter his speech and homosexuality. These are what defined Warhol as who he became to his audience. As part of his social act and image, Warhol also employed the naivete. He “referred to his public persona as a cartoon-like act that he managed to keep up for twenty-five years”, stating that “sometimes it’s so great to get home and take off my Andy suit” (Cresap, 53). In portraying himself as a naif, Warhol’s speech is especially important. In interviews or around reporters, he played “dumb”, often times responding that “I, uh, don’t know” (qtd. in Sherwood). He answered the same questions differently each time, usually not answering the question at all, prompting people to think he was dumb. Warhol’s front stage and backstage performance can be defined as “cool, coy, campy, and dumb, which he brought out at public moments” and as “wistful, touching, unhappy, and smart, revealed in private moments”, respectively (Cresap, 54). He was also known to use an impersonator, another prop, if you will, to enhance his performance, which when asked as to why he did so, remarked that the other person had more to say that was interesting and was what the people wanted (Cresap, 12). “One of [Warhol’s] provocations, though, is that he does not perform according to our received sense of how naifs should behave” (Cresap, 39). In fact, he performed in such a sly manner that perhaps audiences understood his front and the fact that he was “putting them on”. If we assess his performances, we realize that his acts are in fact far “smarter” than the way a naДЇf normally would act. He managed to fool people so well sometimes that he could effectively manipulate situations to get his way, since cultivated naivete may “serve progressive ends” by being coy, direct, or indirect (Cresap, 38). In other words, through his performances and persona, Warhol was able to deviate from the norm and “get away with it”, so to say.

Warhol also had his own opinion of a good performance. He enjoyed those done by amateurs because they were not phony—“whatever they [did] never really [came] off” (Warhol, 82). So if Warhol thought good performances were those that were real and not phony, then why did he offer his best performances in costume with props and scripts? Perhaps he was trying to eliminate the stigmas he was facing as a result of his sexual orientation and unattractive appearance, and consequently, felt he needed to present himself as an idealized image of who he really was. Because stigma is a social constraint that can have a negative emotional effect on the individual, victims try to “make up” for it by excelling in other areas. Warhol needed “a means of preventing his homosexuality from gaining too much ascendancy in his public perception” (Cresap, 52). He succeeded in diverting people’s attention from concentrating on his homosexuality or his appearance and perceiving them as negative by achieving exceptional limits in his art and personality as a naif. As a result, he created “Andy Warhol” and turned it into a most successful icon or image.

Warhol is most closely associated with the rise of pop art, a form in which the concept being illustrated is depicted in its complete reality, “[taking] the inside and [putting] it outside, and [taking] the outside and [putting] it inside” (Warhol and Hackett, 3). His performance as a pop artist initiated the basis of the image he has taken on today; however, it is his creativity, stemming from his authenticity,

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Andy Warhol And Front Region. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from