Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Facade

Even though I am moving within the same corporate family, I spent Monday going through the obstacle course that all new employees must complete to be "official". I moved from one division into another that is deeper in the belly of the media beast for which I toil each day. And I am on the lot now.

What an interesting place the lot is. On my way to the security office to get the various security cards and parking passes needed to prove my legitimacy, I took a wrong turn and ended up on a set that was not being used. Main Street USA. There was a diner, a pharmacy, an old theatre and some beautiful cobblestone apartments.

Except none of it was real.

Just facades that look like the real thing but have no substance, reminiscent of various episodes of The Twilight Zone (which, by the way, is the greatest television show ever made).

It was fascinating and eerie at the same time. Fascinating because the giant lot is home to various imaginary towns and villages that will take you back in time 50 years or transport you to a different city. Eerie because the towns and villages are hollow, without substance and completely deserted when unnecessary for a television show or a movie.

As I strolled along the ghost town, I wondered about the appeal of the entertainment industry in general. Virtually everything you see in scripted television shows and movies is fake. The sets, the characters, the dialogue. Fake, fake, fake. Yet these are the things with which the average person comes to identify. Listen to people discuss the latest episode of Desperate Housewives (not one of my shows) as if they are friends with the characters and have a real understanding of what is going on in their lives.

The same person, however, would be bored by a Discovery Channel program that told the real-life stories of people from another culture or another place. Shows that feature real people with real stories are rarely as popular as fantasy stories with fake people.

Why is that? Why is real life of little to no interest while fantasy keeps people tuning in week after week? How can the average viewer identify with the trials and tribulations of a make believe character while callously disregarding the suffering experienced by millions of people on this planet each day?

Perhaps this is the essential struggle of humanity - to learn to accept reality instead of fearfully clinging to hollow facades, whether they be religion or movies, that provides a convenient distraction. When I exit the lot at the end of the day, I am happy to return to the chaos that is the real world.

The cure for boredom is curiosity
Dorothy Parker


At 7:34 AM, August 17, 2006 , Blogger Odysseus said...

North Americans are programmed to buy packaging, not substance. Follow the money.

At 7:57 AM, August 17, 2006 , Blogger skip sievert said...

Very somber, and well said. I am reminded why I found this site attractive. We do live in a disconnect. It isn`t going to get better. It is dogging everyone. When a society is predicated on false values, nothing really works out right for any one.
Our system did get us to where we are, but has now dead ended us. It won`t get us to the future.
With population growing and resources diminishing, we are doomed. Our Price System will always make a critical wrong choice, when a right choice was needed.
Why is this.? Everyone is chasing a mirage. Money. They think that if they have that it will solve any problem. Actually though it really doesn`t work that way.
Many people think that if more money is thrown at environmental cleanup or education, that these things can be fixed. That never works though, because the actual problem is related to the money itself.
As long as people are rewarded by money they will continue to do the wrong thing. As long as money is the goal, people will do any thing to get it. - I think this may be at the center of this disconnect.
Is it possible to change all this. ?
I think it is.
I have a feeling that everyone's life would connect more,have more meaning, purpose, and beauty if we got off the current standard we use and switched out of this system to one that is secular/humanitarian, and used a different method to determine what is important.

At 9:24 AM, August 17, 2006 , Anonymous Roderick said...

II: Why is real life of little to no interest while fantasy keeps people tuning in week after week?

Roderick: We live it once so why would we want to watch it again?

II: How can the average viewer identify with the trials and tribulations of a make believe character while callously disregarding the suffering experienced by millions of people on this planet each day?

Roderick: I don't think it is callousness, but between the internet, Blackberrys, beepers, cell phones, etc. we are a world in information overload and tv is just an escape mechanism.

At 10:12 AM, August 17, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Television is drama. It's like modern-day Shakespeare. "Fake" is too harsh of a word. Just like characters in a novel, each character on Desperate Housewives represents an aspect of human nature. Eva Longorria represents the money-hungry, pretty but insecure type. Don't know anyone like that??? I sure do.

At 11:05 AM, August 17, 2006 , Anonymous truthmechanic said...

The rise of youtube and to a lesser extent "reality" tv shows that some people crave authentic experience. The rise of "real person" impersonators on youtube shows us that we're still easily duped.

At 4:45 PM, August 17, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

When people ask me why I tend to read fiction, I usually say something like, "If I want reality I'll look out my window." Maybe people watch for simple escapism. Or maybe we're drawn to extremes - we like to see someone's flaws pushed to cartoon proportions. My own theory is that we watch fictional drama shows simply so we can say "My life's not as bad as THAT guy's is..." (But, to be honest, I'm the guy watching Discovery, History, PBS and Science channels.)

At 7:26 PM, August 17, 2006 , Blogger Mr. Wilson said...

television is powerful like nicotine. i might know somewhere in the back of my mind that watching Uncut on BET late at night is unhealthy (especially with the ads for Girls Gone Wild videos during every commerical break), but there is something titillating about watching it... something that makes it hard to turn from even though i know there are probably more mentally healthy viewing options (and a stack of books by my bed taunting me by collecting dust and suggesting a certain intellecutal stagnancy).

In the privacy of my own home, it is hard to deny the gravity of certain television shows even though i know some may create a better citizen/human and others may have pathological effects. i don't begrudge the fact that i would rather watch television that isn't condescending. television that doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator... ...but the truth is that no matter how sophisticated i get, there is a seven year old inside all of us and there is nothing wrong with entertaining that guy too.

sometimes a little fantasy is good just the same way a cigarette is...whatever keeps you from beating your kids or cursing at your spouse or whatever other thing we might be on the verge of doing. but i will agree most days we are not on the verge of doing something catastropic to ourselves or others. if we use television to escape all the time, we are always running from a reality we might be more empowered to alter if we actually choose to experience it.

-mr. wilson

At 9:29 AM, August 18, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...


Both religion and TV offer a view of life in which people are more important than they are in reality: both give them this sense that there's more to life than their current situation.... TV and movies (usally) gives them a world in which good stuggles against evil. The theme is echo'd in the church. These folks want to be part of that struggle: they need someone/thing to give meaning to their lives since they cannot.

This is why the same folks in the bible belt are the ones that give Jerry Springer his ratings.

Thanks for this post -- it helped to congeal some ideas I've had floating around in my nogg'n.

At 4:27 PM, August 18, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Back from Maui, and saw the Skip meister went off and on this Blog.

I have a simplistic answer to your point about reality and fantasy. Too many people do not want to accept reality, and can't deal with it, so they immerse themselves in Fantasy. See Bush supporters.

Fantasy or escapism means you don't have to think.

Will be posting a trip report and hopefully some pictures too. Maui was great and while an escape, it was all REAL.

At 11:06 AM, August 21, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Just a few pictures posted, working on the trip report, and working on my next letter to the editor.

At 1:52 PM, August 21, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

To return to Odysseus' comment about packaging briefly, I saw on "60 Minutes" or "Nightline" or one of those shows a report on how companies market to children. The show lined up a bunch of kids and had them choose their own breakfast - a nice banana or a rock with Spider Man stickers on it. Almost all the children chose the rock for breakfast over the tasty banana.

I hate to say it, but there are a LOT of Hummers out there...

At 11:54 AM, August 22, 2006 , Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

That's hilarious Chris. When's the last time you heard a commercial that was about the attributes of the product? What we get are commercials that make you want to identify with a lifestyle by buying tires, or toilet cleaner. If the product is described, it's about attitude, edge or something less tangible and we don't get facts but hyperbole, half truth and outright lies.

There are a lot of Republican voters out there too.

At 8:21 AM, September 04, 2006 , Blogger Possum said...

I'm rolling my eyes at this post until I get to Reign's comment that TV is like Religion?

Then I feel sorry for you Reign because your life will end at the dirt. There is no other reason to exist but the materialism and here & now that funds the television that you have such a low opinion of.

As for Captian's comment about Republicans out there I would submit this for his approval: Aren't Democrats the ones willing to debate the meaning of "is" and continue to embrace a lie of Clinton while ignoring the history of how we came to be in the world situation we are in?

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