Character Confusion


Read Time: 2 Min


Folks sometimes confuse an actor with the character the actor plays. They assume the actor IS the character. Think Jeff Bridges and The Dude, Daniel Radcliff and Harry Potter, or Stephen Colbert and, well, Stephen Colbert.

There have been a couple of controversies in as many weeks that involve actors in commercials. We all know the character “Flo” from the Progressive insurance commercials, right? The quirky character is played by actress and comedienne Stephanie Courtney. Stephanie is simply an actress playing a role for an insurance company, but has recently gotten swept into a controversy involving the insurance giant and its involvement in a wrongfully handled deadly, drunk driving case. Progressive seems to be the bad guys in this situation, but Stephanie is the one paying the price as the face of the company. Yikes.

The latest character confusion incident involves Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World”, and the actor who plays him, Jonathan Goldsmith. Ad Age describes the actor as being “almost inseparable from the character he plays” and “recognized routinely by strangers who aspire to be his character.” It also turns out that Jonathan is a big supporter of Barack Obama and, in between commercial shoots for Dos Equis, he has been throwing fundraisers for the Democratic candidate. He is doing this as a private citizen, under his own name, and with no affiliation with Dos Equis.

Even though Jonathan is simply exercising his right as a U.S. citizen, Dos Equis is probably not happy with the situation. In a statement, the company told Ad Age: “Mr. Goldsmith’s opinions and views are strictly his own, and do not represent those of Dos Equis.” Regardless, there has been a backlash from some consumers ranging from disgruntled social media posts to a boycott of the beer.

Some companies don’t underestimate the repercussions of all this character confusion. You may remember that a couple of years ago during the Tsunami disaster in Japan, AFLAC  fired Gilbert Gottfried (the voice of the AFLAC duck) for some off-color Twitter comments he made about the disaster. They probably didn’t want to risk people thinking that the duck was unsympathetic to disaster victims. After all, that IS his job.

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