On Authenticity

In Rob Walker’s essay, ‘The Straw Man in the Grey Flannel Suit,’ an important theme that he talked about was Authenticity. The Zephyr crew, for example, were regarded as outlaws, rebels who represented the man in the grey flannel suit’s yearning to defy the status quo. Their ‘authenticity’ had the ability to attract people and shape fandom.


I worked in media prior to joining ITP, and I reflect upon  how Walker’s thoughts on Authenticity is so spot on, every time we are able determine weather a program (or actor) would succeed or not based solely on the character’s (or actor’s) authenticity.

In media, we look at the man in the grey flannel suit’s “Self” and “We” dimensions, in psychology, one’s ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ values. The reason why people relate to Authentic characters or cling to Authentic actors is that in the “Self” dimension, the Authentic character becomes an outlet for release, an opportunity to express themselves without having to express themselves. On a more internal level, these Authentic characters become Icons for the self, giving the man in the grey flannel suit the ability to explore his own self identity.

On the “We” dimension, these Authentic characters enable the man to find signs of acceptability. These authentic characters become the physical manifestation of belongingness which also allows for mediated self-expression.


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