There are no characters, just those who play them
Movies: you gotta love ’em, right?
Generally speaking, yes. You do gotta love ’em.
They’re focus-grouped, scientifically crafted units of art, tailor made to be as entertaining to as many people as possible. Movies are eye-catching, ear-catching, and often heart- and brain-catching too. And I don’t think these are remotely controversial claims to be making.
But if I have one gripe with movies as a general construct, it’s that the movie industry pushes a two-pronged agenda on its consumers: its actors and actresses are in-and-of-themselves entertainment, separate from the movies they appear in, which are obviously also entertainment. I don’t really care that the mere existence of a celebrity has been commoditized into a viable element of The Culture–the fact that the Kardashians are famous and thus, celebrated, doesn’t bug me in the slightest.
What does bug me is that I am expected to remember the names of actors and actresses, as well as the names of the fictional characters they portray. I just don’t have it in me to do that. I struggle to remember the names of real life acquaintances all the time. Why pile even more names onto my plate?
As such, I–due in equal parts to a low-functioning brain and principle–downright refuse to acknowledge that characters in movies have names independent from who plays them.
And that makes watching multiple films featuring the same person way more fun, because a performer’s entire body of work becomes a distinct cinematic universe, in which the same person takes on a variety of vastly different personas, but is fundamentally still themselves.
Jared Leto: Olympian and rock star runner
Using this spurious strain of logic, we can in fact deduce that Pre lives, and not just in the imaginations of high school runners and the marketing plans of Nike. Because Pre is Jared Leto. And Jared Leto is Pre. They are one. And we can roll with that.
And it all began when Jared Leto was a shrimpy kid out in Coos Bay, Oregon, in the 1960s.
Jared just wasn’t cut out for contact sports, and so he wound up doing some running. And he was damn good at it. So good, that R. Lee Ermey took out an ad in a newspaper recruiting him to run for the fabled University of Oregon.
As a Duck, Jared never gives less than his best, and wouldn’t dream of sacrificing his clear gift. He runs hard, parties hard, lives hard. When he’s not taking down the best domestic and international talent on the ol’ tartan oval, he’s a bonafide sex-haver, beer-drinker and friend, whose star seems to be on the rise, despite witnessing unspeakable horrors at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
It turns out, life in the fast lane can be fleeting. And sometimes the fast lane is too windy for your MGB to handle. Jared is presumed dead at the scene of a tragic car accident, a legend gone too young, and an era of American distance running cut short.
But it was all a ruse.
Jared lives–in Delaware
Disheartened by the state of affairs in the sport he once loved, Jared actually faked his demise, and hopped a train clear across the country. His competitors didn’t run races the way he did–hard from the gun, and with a reckless abandon. And track’s governing body stifled him and his potential to earn a livelihood.
So Jared finds in Delaware an anarcho-capitalist commune in which he can over-correct the perceived ills of his previous life.
He lives in a giant, secluded, and abandoned mansion in an industrial section of Wilmington, where he and his peers make soap from the fat of liposuction patients. It’s a sweet gig. And he blows off steam by playing plenty of grab-ass and roughhousing.
Until one day, Edward Norton beats the ever living piss out of him because “[he] felt like destroying something beautiful.” Jared is knocked out cold, his face broken and nearly unrecognizable from the savage beating. He just cannot escape the suffering of human existence, and seems inherently drawn to activities that bring even more than the baseline level of pain expected from life.
Jared masks the pain
So like so many Delawareans before him, Jared hops on a $15 Megabus up to New York City to try and hack it in the Big Apple. Thanks to his disfigurement and the accompanying hardships, Jared pulls an about-face in terms of his personal philosophy, abandoning the Rand-ian belief system that lead to him getting the shit beaten out of him, in favor of a more humanistic approach that enabled him to accept help from others and even the city’s government.
He finds himself posted up in public housing– recuperating in a high-rise in a complex located in the predominantly Russian section of Brooklyn known as Brighton Beach.
But the devils of opioid addiction slowly creep in. Presumably, Jared moves on from doctor-prescribed pain-killers, onto the harder stuff: smack. He constantly fiends for it; any time not spent shooting up is spent scheming over how to get his next fix. He pawns off loved ones’ possessions and betrays the trust of everyone around him. And ultimately winds up in Florida with his heroin-infected arm amputated.
It’s tragic, but don’t weep for Jared just yet.
Jared reinvents himself–and his wallet
His arm surgically reattached, Jared gets clean and kicks the dope. His perseverance is rewarded with a hot shot job with a major Wall Street firm. For the first time in his life, Jared foregoes his principles (however fluctuating they have been) and bows down to the Almighty Dollar.
His hair slicked back, his suits designer, and his demeanor one of “what can you do for me,” Jared struts his stuff around the Financial District, cashing checks and snapping necks. He seems to be invincible.
Until he crosses the wrong man: Christian Bale, who looks just like him. The two are at a bar with some business associates, and the gang gets to showing off their business cards. After careful consideration, it’s concluded that Jared’s cards are the best, which sets Christian off in a real way.
So he gets Jared stumbling drunk, invites him up to his apartment, and appears to dismember him with a cleaver, careful to avoid spilling blood on his carpet.
But this too, is all smoke and mirrors, and it takes a heck of a lot more to take down Jared.
Jared rises from the ashes once more like a goddamn phoenix
For nearly a decade, we don’t see much of Jared. He’s laying low, because you can only fake yourself so many times in such a short period of time. Instead, we hear from him, as the primary song-writer and singer for prominent 2000s butt-rock group 30 Seconds to Mars.
Then suddenly, Jared puts down the guitar, and comes to the realizing that he had been living a lie all these years, which probably necessitated his frequent escapes-via-faked-death.
Jared is a transwoman. And she lives in Dallas. She dates Bradford Cox, the lead singer from the fantastic band Deerhunter. And she contracts the AIDS virus.
This sets off a chain of events and hospitalizations that introduces her to homophobic, transphobic… really every kind of phobic… rodeo cowboy and amateur electrician Matthew McConaughey. The swaggering McConaughey too suffers from AIDS, and takes an entrepreneurial approach to his treatment, buying experimental and non-FDA-approved drugs in bulk from overseas and selling them at fair prices to those with AIDS in Dallas. And Jared helps out with the bookkeeping for this illicit business.
Ultimately, Jared seems to succumb to the deadly–and at the time still very misunderstood and stigmatized–disease. But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that you don’t count Jared out.
For Jared, the joke’s on us
Jared cannot be destroyed. And at this point, he knows it as well as any of us. No dramatic irony here. Just a newfound desire to flaunt his invincibility. Jared puts on some clown makeup and a purple suit, just to remind us all of his immortality.
And in that way, via transitive property and my probable brain condition that makes remembering names difficult, Pre really does still live.