"Games of Thrones" star Jack Gleeson never expected the fame that would come once he landed the role on the hit HBO series. In actuality, he considers celebrity culture to be a "cannibalistic" and dehumanizing industry.
Gleeson, otherwise known as the hated King Joffrey, appeared before the Oxford Union back in November for a discussion on this very issue. A 30-minute YouTube video of his speech was uploaded Wednesday, Jan. 15, by Oxford Union and quickly went viral after being shared on Reddit, where Redditors lauded Gleeson for examining his own celebrity in both a self-deprecating and thoroughly analytical way.
The 21-year-old, from Cork, Ireland, said it was naive of him to not realize what the future held once he signed onto the award-winning HBO project, which premiered in 2011. Suddenly, people were taking his photo and asking about his sock brand.
"It was an environment from which I instantly wanted to retreat," he admitted. "I detested the superficial elevation and commodification of it all, juxtaposed with the grotesque self-involvement it would sometimes draw out in me."
He said he actually found it odd that he himself found fame odd, because society reveres celebrity "almost religiously," with idols running the gamut from actors and pop singers to reality stars and "cheesemongers or something." The reverence has been welcomed and fostered by the public, even though "they're just people after all." With the rise of mass media, he added, celebrity became consumable and disposable for the masses.
"What's ironic is that you see celebrity endorsing things like, you know, musical tampons and appearing in advertisements for lavender scented teeth whitener or something. Wielding goods whose sell-by dates [will] ironically, probably, outlast theirs," Gleeson said. "Having one's image, and effectively life, democratized, dehumanizes and sometimes objectifies it into an entertainment product. What sort of valuation of the ego would one have once you've let it been preyed upon by the public for years and years? Perhaps, it becomes truly just skin and bones."
He used sociological theories to defend his point that celebrity worship, and imitation, can ultimately be dangerous because the "role model does not feel a duty to instantiate, shall we say, suitable values to adopt."
Back in November, Gleeson said he'd likely quit acting once he was done on "Game of Thrones" because fame is not a reality he gravitates toward. He told Ireland's Independent he plans to focus on charity work instead.
"[A]fter a long day of work, you're just happy to take off all your annoying armor and the costumes and just be yourself again," he told GQ in 2012. "I'm quite relieved when I can stop being Joffrey."