Before there was the platinum blonde wig, there was the paper bag. Pop singer Sia Furler has become known for hiding her face and using wigged proxies like Lena Dunham and 12-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler, but the first incarnation of this attempt to maintain anonymity was the same as Shia LaBeouf’s: a paper bag mask that decried fame. In fact, Furler donned a bag months before LaBeouf debuted his “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” stunt at the Nymphomaniac premiere last February. In October 2013, Sia appeared on the cover of Billboard Magazine wearing a paper bag that touted her enormous commercial accomplishments as a songwriter before adding — imagine it — “…and [she] doesn’t want to be famous.” (The paper bag aesthetic has crept into Sia’s press photos as well.)
“If anyone besides famous people knew what it was like to be a famous person, they would never want to be famous,” read Sia’s accompanying “Anti-Fame Manifesto” in Billboard. “Imagine the stereotypical highly opinionated, completely uninformed mother-in-law character and apply it to every teenager with a computer in the entire world. Then add in all bored people, as well as people whose job it is to report on celebrities. Then, picture that creature, that force, criticizing you for an hour straight once a day, every day, day after day.”
Every generation has celebrities who’ve turned away from fame in a public way, but not quite like these two. So when I first caught wind of Shia LaBeouf’s big statement last year, I was reminded of Sia’s Billboard cover. Given the bigger questions surrounding LaBeouf’s ongoing anti-fame crusade and his mental state, his aesthetic inspiration was the least of anyone’s concerns, particularly after the he claimed the stunt was an act of performance art and accusations of ripping off Marina Ambramović (how ironic) surfaced. Less than a year later, we’re a long ways from Shia’s paper bag days (now he’s all about apologizing). But now that I see LaBeouf starring in Furler’s new video, it’s clear these two are, at the very least, on the same wavelength. And it works, with a level intensity that one can feel certain is sincere from LaBeouf, for once.
“Elastic Heart” — off the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack and Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear — sees LaBeouf stars opposite Ziegler, first made famous for her spirited performance in the “Chandelier” video. The two weathered figures dance together in a large metal cage, wearing only body suits, nude briefs, and bandages.
Choreographer Ryan Heffington and director Daniel Askill, both of the “Chandelier” clip, team up again for a moving work that seems to speak to Shia and Sia’s shared anti-fame sentiment. They’re trapped, left to rage out and ultimately find comfort in one another, even after Ziegler squeezes through the confines of the cage. If you continue to perceive Ziegler as a proxy for Furler, the video could be construed as two celebrities commiserating the shackles of fame without having to say it again, with another paper bag.