Movies aren’t real.
While ostensibly, most grownups agree on this, we frequently don’t act as if we do. It’s not so much that we look over our shoulders for zombies or vampires as that we gaze at our bathroom scales, willing the needle to move to the left. From that point we advance to the mirror and pull back the skin around our eyes. Then the bravest of us step back, turn to the side, suck in, and peer quickly at the result. Gwyneth Paltrow? Nah. Matt Damon? Yeah, right.
In the movies, all normal people are skinny and young. Sometimes, when a movie wants to be grittily authentic and show actual real people like the residents of Iowa, say, they make the actor gain weight, change the hairstyle to something flat and lifeless, dress in sloppy clothes. This, it is understood, is reality. But most of the time, they feed us skinny and young with thick glasses and sweatpants, who later metamorphosize into ordinary office workers in contacts, short leather skirts, and stiletto heels that amazingly do not preclude performing martial art feats.
Regardless of whether they are falling in love or being chased by rogue federal agents, the skinny and young, airbrushed and Botoxed, characters of the movies hold down ordinary jobs as magazine writers (do you know anyone who works for a real magazine?), although they never actually spend any time in the office. Regardless, they’re paid well, judging from the size of their New York apartments – all with views – most of which are larger than our houses, and certainly better appointed.
Everything they do looks cool, which isn’t surprising because they’re young, or made to look that way, and skinny and rich and well dressed and continuously surrounded by background music. Most people, when they text, look kind of silly, but not these people, because they can text with one hand, while ice skating, and with a few button pushes they manage to access interior state department satellite sites closed off to the rest of us.
Car crashes are no big deal, actually multiple car crashes generally ending by flying through the air into the water. But that’s okay because our skinny, young protagonist can hold her breath for six minutes. (I should clarify: females are skinny; males are buff, and even if they are accountants or insurance agents, they manage to casually rip off that dress shirt and flex.)
They down whiskey like water; never exercise; speak multiple and obscure foreign languages; and number their close, really close, friends in the dozens.
None of this would be a problem if we truly separated reality – the jobs we go to, the people we see, the bills we pay, all done without background music – from the imaginary world of made up stories played by people whose primary job is to exercise for hours, eat very little, and never go out in the street without bodyguards, nannies, or make-up.
Movies are pretend. Actors are people who pretend well. The two provide entertainment, respite from our real world of unemployment, insecure bosses, rude customers, broken down appliances, anemic bank accounts, overflowing toilets – the boring stuff that make up our everyday, difficult yet beautiful lives.
Let’s give ourselves a break. Take a walk, by yourself, with a friend. Sit around the table and eat with your family. Read a book, pet the dog, write a letter, call your mom, learn to knit, close your eyes and just daydream.
Then, when you get bored, consider watching a movie. But make it a good one that afterwards makes you feel good about being yourself and living your life, and not wishing that you were living the life of someone else, someone who doesn’t actually exist.
Soaps… the movies people borrow to live vicariously from day to day to avoid living their own lives. I wonder how parents can open their children’s eyes to the wonders of real life early and get them in the habit? My mom was great at that– looking for four-leaf clovers– finding trillium, etc. My Dad too– watching thunderstorms from our front doorway. Now that is real-time thrill stuff.
Do you think the violence and terror that is so much a part of our film fodder today has inflated our capacity for feelings? I mean, if we watch people getting murdered every day of the week on tv, and see all the blood and corpse stuff, do we get inured to such things so that it takes much more blood and guts to make an impact?
I feel about this pretty much the way I feel about artificial stimulants of other kinds– how does one find “normal” after a hyped up synthetic experience?
Susan: I very much agree with you that we are inured to violence and tragedy by vicariously observing so much of it. We see so much, but actually observe and internalize very little; we are bombarded by music and sound and news and information, yet actually absorb very little of it. It is amazing the number of people who cannot sit, walk, stand, drive, or soak in the bathtub without some external device providing light and sound.
It’s a conscious choice to limit, or walk away from, such exposure, and if people really want to do it, they can. I was walking into a store the other day and in the parking lot, a young woman walked toward the entrance as well, her head down, fingers fumbling with buttons. I thought, what is so incredibly important that you can’t walk from your car to the front of the store without sending, or reading, a text?
My weekend plans? Knitting. A good book. Sitting with the kitty. A walk. Chopping vegetables for a Thai stir fry. Pummeling the Son and Heir in a cribbage game. Not playing Mancala with the Son and Heir, because he always pummels me.
A quiet, and refreshing weekend to you, my friend.
okay, I’m glad I don;t have to give you a trophy every time you write a winner. Your room would look like that of Steffi Graf, Chris Evert or Martina Navratilova.
I watched a special about Norma Jean, hearing about all the plastic surgery, watched angelina show off her leg which is actually a forearm of a normal person. I respect their success, but enjoy my life as it is, growing mid-section and all.
You are so gracious, Tom. Thank you.
I agree — I wouldn’t trade my life, tummy and all, for anyone else’s.
Pingback: Is It Impossible? Maybe Not. | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson