Sunday, March 30, 2008

Crossing Over

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Turns out the answer is age-dependent: if you’re older than 14, the typical response is either “to get to the other side” or “because it was stapled to the car.” However, my seven-year-old cousin recently provided two new reasons. First, he said, “To get to the alien headquarters database.”

Then, not convinced that extraterrestrial HQ would warrant a jaunt across the street, he said, “Because [unintelligible Pokemon person] needed to go to [unintelligible Pokemon place] to [unintelligible Pokemon action].” Startled that the joke had changed so much since I was a kid, I asked him where he’d heard all that.

“At school,” he said, organizing his Pokemon cards in a binder.
“Who told you the joke?”
“All my friends tell the same joke. Everybody knows it,” he said, annoyed.

The pedestrian chicken's evolution has been swift. The factors that compelled it to cross the road 15 years ago are no longer relevant, replaced by ultra-sci-fi and cartoons. My generation grew up with the Power Rangers and Sonic the Hedgehog, but we segregated our humor and entertainment. Even the fortunate few who had Duck Hunt guns in first grade never cross-pollinated their joke repertoire and their living room amusement. Yet my cousin—and his friends, apparently—are bringing life experience into their jokes, incorporating stumpy little Pokefreaks into chickens who cross roads.

Sorry to say, but a chicken crossing the road lacks the cognitive power to discern a special purpose in its sojourn—an ambulatory chicken is probably thinking about nothing at all, and, at best, is thinking something like, “Cross. Now. Poop.” That otherwise intelligent kids could suggest that a chicken would go to an alien headquarters is indicative of the chief difference between kids today and kids yesterday—kids today believe the video game universe is real. At heart, my generation knew that Sonic was a fantastical creature, and though he amused us, he remained illusory, a figment of Sega’s imagination.

Kids today, however, are born into a technological landscape so interactive that differentiating between real and delusional is very difficult. Imagine being four years old and being able to instruct your TV what to show you, seeing your parents conduct most of their lives through a computer, and listening to music through a wafer-shaped doohickey with a track wheel. Most people’s online friends outnumber their real ones by a 10:1 margin, and social lives are organized on the Internet. Breaking up on Facebook is as ritualized as actually breaking up, and having MySpace fans is as vital to a band as having fans at a show.

So is it really such a stretch for a four year-old, seven year-old, or even eleven year-old to assume that Pokemon characters are really their friends? Or that chickens coexist with aliens? No wonder their humor reveals a certain belief in the non-real; indeed, their lives are orchestrated in the gloaming between actual, corporeal reality and virtual reality. Is Pikachu any less real than a Facebook friendship? Or, put more pointedly, is a TV that does your bidding any less real than the person next to you in class?

What’s so wrong with supposing that a chicken and an alien and a Pokemon all exist? In this new child’s world, where television and computers dictate reality as much as reality dictates reality, jokes must reflect the ever-broadening definition of what could possibly be.

So, why did the chicken cross the road? I don’t know. I’m too old.

Stay Seven, Kids
DJ Dodder


Anonymous said...

“All that we see or seem
Is just a dream, within a dream”

The Video game super Mario is a virtual reality, it is a reality that exists within our reality
there are hundreds of thousands of these fictional realties within our reality . They exist in video games, movies and books. As you mentioned, nowadays the line is blurring between the real and the virtual. Two examples.

Real virtuosity

Cinderella’s castle is the setting of a fictional place in a fair tale book. However in Walt Disney world they built Cinderella’s castle! It is a physical tangible place where you can get married. The world of fantasy and the real world are blending together in such a way (as you mentioned) it is getting difficult to discern the difference

In the film Fargo DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF YOU NEVER SAW IT !!! a briefcase full of cash is buried in a field , no one ever recovers the loot. The movie was based on a true story written by the Cohen brothers. A women from Japan decided to go and find the brief case. She was ill prepared and unfamiliar with the terrain and unfortunately she went out one day and never came back, when her body was found it was extremely frozen. The film Fargo developed some Oscar buzz and some began investigating the truth to the “True” story. The Cohen brothers later admitted the story was a complete fabrication , there never was brief case!..

This is an interesting topic that many of your readers as well as there imaginary friends would like to hear more about

Anonymous said...

Continuing with that line of thought, Disney has taken it one step further with its new movie 'Enchanted' which brings the cartoon fairy tale characters out into real life. The lines have most definitely been blurred.

Bartleby the Scrivener said...

That’s interesting, I have heard actors speaking of “memories” of themselves having experiences which were actually part of the film they were acting in (I think it was Christen Bale??) .

When you see a celebrity in real life say Jason Alexander, you associate him with the character George from Seinfeld. However (as he mentions himself in an episode of curb) Jason is nothing like the George character, at all. Jerry Seinfeld is also an interesting case, he is playing a stand up comedian named Jerry Seinfeld on his show which he wrote about himself, and in the show Seinfeld the character Seinfeld writes a show about his own experiences, an excellent possibility for endless recursion.

The medium is the message" - Marshall McLuhan

A portrait of reality
Once someone told me they could explain to me why every art teacher in the world is wrong, then they did. Take two pictures, a tree in a field and a blue square overlapping a red circle. Every art “expert” will tell you that the first painting is a landscape or a “realistic” setting while the other painting is “abstract” art. However if you really think about it, it should be the other way around. We must examine closely what each painting is. The first painting is a glob of green and brown paint, it represents a tree, however the second painting, is what it is , so to speak. It is a square and a circle. The first painting should be abstract and the second one should be realistic.

There is a similar phenomenon with “reality” T.V. This form of programming is actually the exact opposite of reality. The participants in most of these shows know they are on camera, once you know they are on camera and therefore act differently and it automatically throws off the point of the show. This problem is known as the observer paradox (from WIki) coined by William Labov, “the aim of linguistic research in the community must be to find out how people talk when they are not being systematically observed; yet we can only obtain this data by systematic observation.”

This Problem can obviously be circumvented and it is, on such shows as boiling points as well as the classic candid camera. These shows of course still have editing and various other manipulations made to them, in fact it is not possible to gain an “objective” view of reality, everything is filtered or blurred by someone as William James points out …

“ The fact that you believe your Truth is of the objective variety is still just your subjective opinion”

Danny said...

if you talk out against duck hunt, I will fight you.