Monday, December 05, 2016

The Problem With Entertainment

For some reason this morning I ended up reading the Wikipedia pages for Gorillas in the Mist and Dian Fossey. Later, on the parents guide of IMDb for the movie, I read this:

Sigourney Weaver and her lover are seen in a bathtub together, no nudity is shown.
Which I'm pretty sure isn't true.

Perhaps Dian Fossey and her lover are portrayed in a bathtub together, and perhaps Sigourney Weaver and the actor playing Dian Fossey's lover are seen in a bathtub together, but unless we're accusing Sigourney Weaver of being romantically involved with her co-star, we can't say that she was seen in a bathtub with her lover.

And that's the problem with entertainment: even though we know we're being shown something that isn't real life, we can't help but respond as if it were real life. It reminds me of when I saw Rita Wilson on Oprah's show and an audience member asked Rita if her husband, Tom Hanks, was going to run for public office because "I love him and he'd be great." You LOVE him, rando woman? You don't KNOW him. You love the way he portrays characters but you can't possibly love HIM. And what can you possibly know of whether or not he'd be great as a politician? I guess we can assume Tom Hanks's political positions are similar to those of other politically-involved actors (so somewhere between Elizabeth Warren and Che Guevara), but until he gets specific, we're all just guessing.

Some could say that our inability to distinguish between real life and media is a result of the relatively-recent invention of media. Our brains have evolved to accept the things we're seeing as fact. But I don't think this is so. From the moment the first caveman reenacted an especially-dramatic hunt, we've had dramatic portrayals. And given what we know about the stories of fisherman, we've probably had our first fiction for just as long. It's not like everything we saw was true until the days of Thomas Edison. So why haven't we yet learned* how to distinguish entertainment from real life? And should we expect things to get any better with more people going through real life like this?

* = Probably my finest split infinitive ever.

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