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The Cricket: When pop culture invades your dreams

Published May 29, 2013 1:52 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I dreamed about Brad Pitt the other night.

I don't remember many details, other than Pitt was working at The Salt Lake Tribune as a columnist. In my dream, Pitt was in the newsroom for a staff meeting, which I registered as a rare occurrence — because even though he worked here, he also was living his other life as a super-famous actor, movie producer and Angelina Jolie's arm candy.

Also, everybody kept their clothes on. It wasn't that kind of dream. (If it had been, I probably wouldn't be disclosing it in a public forum.)

What does it mean to dream about one of the world's most recognizable movie stars?

A cursory Google search led me to a blog called "The Matrix Mind," whose writer opined that dreaming about famous people means I want to meet them — or, more broadly, I want to have the level of success they have.

I don't buy that answer. In my 20 years of covering movies, I've met a fair number of movie stars. In fact, I met Pitt early in his career, when he appeared at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival with his movie "Johnny Suede." This was just after his breakout role in "Thelma & Louise" and just before his starmaking role in "A River Runs Through It" hit theaters.

Every time I meet a movie star, I realize that it's not a life I would enjoy.

Sure, I'd like the pay raise, and to have companies give me free stuff. (Have you ever seen a "gifting lounge" at a major celebrity event? Holy moley.) But the downside of fame — being constantly on display, losing any sense of privacy, having one's personal life scrutinized in the tiniest detail — doesn't seem worth all the money.

There's also that odd part of celebrity where a star must voluntarily lay bare his or her personal life — marital strife, drug problems, childhood abuse, what have you — in an "up close and personal" profile in a major magazine or TV news show, conveniently timed to the release of the star's next big movie.

Pitt is one of the few stars big enough to be the center of such a profile without participating in it. He's on the cover of the current issue of Vanity Fair, but Laura M. Holson's accompanying story, a detailed look at the cost overruns and studio hand-wringing over Pitt's megabudgeted "World War Z" (which opens June 14), does not have a single direct quote from him.

If you're a prominent enough celebrity couple, like Pitt and Jolie, you can buy your privacy and control your narrative. When Jolie announced in a The New York Times op-ed that she had undergone a double mastectomy, a preventive measure because she carries the gene for breast cancer, the shock of her revelation was nearly matched by the surprise that she was able to keep the story out of the papers until the moment she decided to tell it.

So what does it mean to dream about a movie star? I suspect that it happens all the time, in part because we live in a culture that places celebrity faces and names in front of us constantly. We see them on our various screens, read about them on websites, talk about them in social media and sometimes even interact with them online – sending notes to them on Twitter, donating to their Kickstarter projects, etc.

Celebrities show up on our radar as often as our friends and loved ones. And, like our loved ones, celebrities can be symbolic of personality traits or emotions we see in ourselves. Brad Pitt may represent the rugged individualist we aspire to be. An older star (for example, Betty White) could be symbolize maternal protectiveness. A scandal-ridden star (say, Lindsay Lohan) might stand for the train wreck we fear our lives could become.

People may disagree so strongly about some subjects, like politics or religion, that we can't even talk about them. But nearly everyone can recognize pop-culture figures like Mickey Mouse, Superman, Elvis or, yes, Brad Pitt.

Pop culture has become our one common language. And pop culture so saturates our waking lives that it's no surprise that some of it bleeds into our sleep. Sweet dreams.

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @movecricket, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/seanpmeans.