Saturday, October 08, 2005

Is It Real, Or Is It Monkeyshines?

The other day while flipping through the channels I came across an episode of The Surreal Life. Now, I haven't watched much of anything past the original season (MC Hammer, Webster, and the Feld-dog? Who could pass that up?), since everything after that seemed to have the obnoxious-to-entertaining ratio leaning a bit too heavily towards the obnoxious end of the continuum. However, this ep caught my attention because it was the "Dirty Laundry" ep where everyone's favorite washed-up talk show host, Sally Jesse Raphael, grills the cast-mates about their actions in the house. The big question was: who was being real, and who was being fake? It of course descended into a screaming match, like all good talk shows do, but it got me to thinking about the question of perception vs. reality; how closely does what we are shown match up to what was really going on?

It's the biggest trick of reality TV: editing together snippets of people's lives to create storylines. The people who come across negatively on these shows almost always cry foul, claiming that they're the victims of the cutting room floor. This has always rung false to me; sure, the editors may have excised scenes where they're kissing babies and cuddling puppies, but they didn't conjure the scenes of obnoxious and jerky behavior out of whole cloth. The Reality TV programs might portray a heightened version of the casts' personalities, but there had to be a kernel of truth within that portrayal to heighten in the first place. At the same time, they have a point: Reality TV is not reality. There might be kernels of truth within the material, but everyone watching needs to remember that it's not the whole truth.

Add onto that selective editing of the most entertaining and/or controversial personality moment the growing number of Reality TV stars who have decided to make being a Reality TV star their bread and butter. Omarosa from the first Apprentice (who just happened to be on the aforementioned ep of The Surreal Life) is a perfect example of this. She makes no bones about the fact that her appearance on the show was all about fulfilling a role: she's the ultimate bad guy of Reality TV, and she plays the role to the hilt. Quoth Omarosa, "If you want to know the real me, come see me after this show is over." As Reality TV has grown like a weed, prospective Reality TV stars have become much more savvy about crafting their personalities to fit some stereotypical role. A recent Survivor contestant only applied as a bet, claiming that he could create a fictional personality profile for himself that would get him selected for the show; turns out he was right, and then was WAY out of his depth when he made it onto the island. But the point remains that nowadays, the editors aren't the only ones tweaking reality to spice things up.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to this blog. Yes, my blog monkeys, there actually is a point to my ramblings, of a sort. CoIM is based on reality, of that there is no doubt. The people are real, the relationships are real, and the situations are real, at least up to a point. And that point is represented by my role as editor. I tend towards hyperbole and superlatives at the best of times in everyday life; when it comes to flexing my creative muscles, you can increase that hyperbolic tendency by at least a factor of a gazillion, easily. I have many goals with CoIM: to share my thoughts on movies, TV, comics, and the like; to exorcise those pesky thoughts that threaten to highjack my brain night after night; to revive my long dormant writing skills; and, last but not least, to amuse and entertain. Who is the target of this amusement and entertainment? Why, me, of course. If I can come up with something that makes me smile and laugh, then my job is done. Everyone else that enjoys it is just gravy.

Okay, that’s a bit disingenuous. If I knew nobody else enjoyed reading this, there would be no way I’d keep going; it would be too much of a blow to the ego. But at the same time, the only standard I can use for what to write about is what sparks my own interest, not what sparks others. Yes, if something appeals to everyone, I might gravitate towards it more (note the growing number of rambling posts), but even if something only appeals to me and two or three others, I’m not going to shy away from it (note my stubborn insistence on doing 4-color Fridays). I give G’ovich a hard time about trying to dictate the terms of my blog and trying to pull my strings, but the truth is, if his suggestions didn’t mesh with what I was already inclined to do, they wouldn’t be put into effect. This, of course, leads to the aspect of the blog that most resembles the “perception vs. reality” problem: how I characterize the people in my life.

If you read my ramblings and think they give you a 100% accurate picture of my friends and family, may I first please slap you upside the back of your head for being so dense before directing your attention to my earlier statements about my tendencies towards hyperbole. I fall into patterns when joking around with people in real life, and those patterns get magnified by a magnitude of at least 2 gazillion when I sit down at the keyboard. I ascribe sinister motives to all of G’ovich’s actions not because I think he’s the embodiment of evil, but because it amuses me to do so. Nor do 99% of the jokes at St. Flunky’s expense have any basis in reality beyond my need for a cheap joke. And when I eventually talk about my fears that The Wiz will one day be arrested for stalking and kidnapping Jake Gyllenhaal and Seth Green in order to make them her love slaves, rest assured that I truly think she’ll be successful in only one of her abduction attempts.

I do worry at times that these exaggerated portrayals might alienate their subjects; if there’s one thing that can’t be over-exaggerated, it’s my tendency to worry needlessly and read too much into simple behavior. But I also sometimes have trouble knowing when enough is enough, getting caught up in the moment and not realizing that I’ve crossed that line between all-in-good-fun and ticking-people-off. I would hope that anyone mentioned here would know it was all meant in jest, but of course, even the most innocent-intentioned jests can cut like a knife if they stray too near an open wound of the psychological variety.

Since this has become a glimpse into the nature of the beast that is CoIM, I’ve been put in mind of an essay by David Sedaris, in which he talks about how his family members hate to tell him anything, because they know it will show up in his next book. Sedaris would promise his family his lips were sealed, and then go ahead and repeat it anyway. I worry (there’s that word again) that the people around me might develop the same sort of thoughts: “I can’t say X or do Y around Cap’n Blabbermouth, because he’ll use it as fodder for that damnable blog.” All I can do to combat this is to promise here and now that if you ask me not to mention some personal detail or incident in the blog, from that moment on the subject is taboo. The key to this being the whole “you’ve got to ask me” thing. Not a mind reader here folks, and until I hear otherwise, everything’s fair game. Yes, I will try to use some discretion here (not going to be running online saying “Man, you’ll never believe what Coronela just said about Zinger!” or “Guess who just committed a Class-A felony!” or the like), but I think that experience has shown that my judgment about what will and won’t cause problems down the way isn’t always all that sound. So, if in doubt, please just shout “Keep your yap shut!” That should do the trick.

Bringing us back to my point of a sort: not to put too fine a point on it, but CoIM is not reality; it’s not even necessarily my interpretation of reality. Think of it more like Reality TV; kernels of truth, edited and amplified for entertainment value.


Anonymous said...

I've always been interested in perception vs. reality in a different way. How people see themselves vs. how others see them. I knew a girl that was completely annoying. She had no friends and her acquaintances would make fun of her or try to avoid her. One day I snapped and told something, I don't remember what exactly. It made her cry. I actually thought it might be helpful. She was so annoying she was going to go through life with no friends. I thought she might want to analyze her behavior and think about making some changes. It just made her cry and I had to apologize. She could never understand that people saw her one way when I'm sure she saw herself and her actions completely differently. Of course I have the same problem. I try to help people with their personality issues and it doesn't come across as very helpful to the recepient. Instead I'm just "blunt" or "honest".