Thursday, September 25, 2008
Happily Ever After?
Speculation abounds regarding whether the media’s influence is positive or negative for our collective psychology—the day has long passed since anyone of repute has argued that television, cinema, radio, advertising, et al. are epistemologically impotent. Indeed, the New Millennium meteoric mass packs a convoluted, dense punch, and unpacking the hazy penumbrae around the impact zone would take a very long time.
This much, however, is sure: we recognize patterns in popular culture and begin to anticipate what will happen next. We extrapolate from movie to movie, from song to song, and Western media being as homogeneous and formulaic as it is, we develop expectations. We know Jason Bourne isn’t going to die. We know the lost dog will find its way home.
We parse out heroes and villains, comedies and tragedies, and figure the good guys from the bad guys.
Most of all, we’ve come to expect the happy ending. And therein lies the problem.
We’re so bombarded with positive outcomes — inconceivable, unrealistic, and insultingly fabricated conclusions — that we’ve come to accept them as not just realistic, but as a given. Think about the Jason Bourne example: so many thousands of movies have reinforced our confidence in the hero’s right to a happy ending that we know what the end holds for Matt Damon. And we assume, extrapolators that we are, that we in the real world have the same right, are virtually assured a sublime epilogue.
We all expect a glorious resolution to our personal conflicts, believing each moment to be the penultimate frame in an inevitably feel-good reel. We believe in change being just around the corner. We believe in big breaks. We believe in magic. We believe in miracles. We believe in the majestic climax that awaits each of us. We have a brand of one-way consciousness that deludes us into categorical hopefulness.
Just one manifestation of our misguidedness is the way we characterize drug rehabilitation. Many call rehab a gateway to a better, warmhearted future. Others, including many who have gone through it, label rehab a stultifying entrée into bleak, temperate incompleteness. Likewise, we tie our relationships and jobs to the happy ending paradigm. We orient our expectations towards a consumer relationship with swooning songstresses, script-trapped actors, and cloistered authors fathoming redemption from the misanthropic generators of literary minds.
Are we delusional? Have we all lost our minds, intent on piquant delusions and reverie? Our echolalia is frightening: the Tourettic insistence on mimicking the media can only portend disaster. Whether we curate a calamity or merely end up severely upset is a matter of degrees, or perhaps courage. How willing are we to turn off the television of our lives, to set down the remote and go outside?
Stay Safe, Bourne