A few days before Oxford Dictionaries revealed ‘selfie’ as the word of 2013, Tom Hanks interrupted Steve Martin’s Honorary Oscar acceptance speech at the Governor Awards, side-stepping towards the podium with a smartphone in tow. “Oh, cool!”, exclaimed Martin, as Hanks extended his arm to capture a selfie of the tuxedoed duo. After a bout of laughter from the audience, Martin slipped back into speech-groove, happy to have paused for a spontaneous self-portrait. The moment was played for comedic effect. It succeeded, in part, as comedy often does, because it contained something of the zeitgeist in it.
The rapid rise of instant imaging technology has made it easier and more seductive than ever to manage our self-image. Indeed, the use of the word ‘selfie’ has increased in frequency by 17,000% in the last year. Oxford Dictionaries defines the term ‘selfie’ as:
a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.
Of course selfies predate the smartphone. Stanley Kubrick was fond of photographing himself with the aid of a mirror. And who can forget the iconic selfie Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis snapped in Thelma & Louise (1991)? Tellingly, the dictionary wizards have determined ‘self-understanding’ as a ‘nearby word’ to ‘selfie’. So in the spirit of self-exploration, let’s take a look at some selfies from the ultimate mirror: the world of film.