In Defense of Linda Holmes and Commentary on Zac Efron’s Facial Hair

Above: The bearded Efron at work with Taylor Schilling in The Lucky One.

At my last job, a collage of printed out portraits adorned my wall under the word “HEROIC.” Comedy Central’s newsworthy Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, music critic and memoir writer Rob Sheffield, Lost co-creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Parks & Recreation’s Leslie Knope, and one other person covered that area of my workspace. I find each of these writers, performers, and character worthy of my admiration, and the last of them might just trump them all: Linda Holmes, the writer of NPR’s Monkey See pop culture commentary blog. Holmes does what I strive to do here in a much more polished and insightful way: she waxes philosophical about all manner of popular culture, from the idea of entertainment consumption to, more recently, Zac Efron’s beard.

That last piece has caused quite a stir. Within two days, it became Holmes’ all-time most controversial piece as it described, rather innocuously, Efron’s transformation from Disney Channel darling to hopeful Hollywood leading man. A confessed fan of the delightfully terrible High School Musical series and the much better musical Hairspray, I’ve always had a certain fondness for Efron. He takes parts in films considered awful and makes huge gaffes in the public eye, but there’s something about that face and that demeanor that makes you forgive him every time. Now, he’s got a beard and more mass appeal than ever before. That’s all Holmes is saying here. There are no harsh critiques or ad hominem attacks. It’s just Holmes being Holmes. And yet, the story is being taken wildly out of context, and in a most peculiar way.

The commenters are divided between praising Holmes for an incisive, humorous piece on the nature of young celebrity and criticizing her for posting something that is not newsworthy on an NPR domain. What the latter group fails to recognize is that Monkey See is not a news blog. It’s not about unrest in the Middle East, congressional mishaps, or the presidential race. It’s never been about anything but pop culture. That’s its intended purpose: commentary. Not breaking news, not startling revelations, not Morning Edition anecdotes about frivolous lawsuits or hot dog eating contests–just pop cultural commentary.

The Efron piece is not a news post, nor is it a takedown of the actor as a person and performer. It’s about Zac Efron, his beard, and what his looks and demeanor mean in our celebrity landscape. It’s not a question of Efron’s integrity or a treatise regarding how he impacts Libyan riots. It’s a great example of what Holmes does week in and week out, representative of why Holmes deserved a place in my collage of heroes. It’s just intellect, people. Maybe next time, you should read a blog’s description and every word of that post before you decide what its content should be.

Read Holmes’ original piece here.

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One thought on “In Defense of Linda Holmes and Commentary on Zac Efron’s Facial Hair

  1. People are constantly debating the transition of young girl actors into young women celebrities—particularly in light of their sexuality (citation: the Dakota Fanning perfume advertisements scandal; the Miley Cyrus risqué magazine photo shoot scandal). It’s widely (and rightly) considered a hot societal issue.

    And yet when an exceptionally informed and bright pop culture analyst looks at a young male actor through the same frame, all of a sudden the conversation is too trivial to discussed.

    These are big questions, and not just for the actors who stand in the crosshairs. The reason it’s so interesting and cyclical of a topic is because we all struggle with growing up and controlling how perceptions change about us as we mature. It’s an incredibly insightful assessment. I *wish* I could kick analytical ass like Linda Holmes.

    (Also, Ryan Gosling was a Disney kid? Holy crap!)

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