Notes from a LiteraryVixen

Snarks and Randoms for Your Enlightenment.

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life. January 30, 2008

Filed under: Philosophy — theliteraryvixen @ 8:57 pm

You know those nights when you really need to go to sleep, but you just can’t turn your mind off and strange random thoughts keep streaming in? I had one of those nights last night. And, since my defenses are low on only four hours of sleep, I decided to share the inner workings of my strange, twisted mind with you all.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I turned the TV on and flipped past all the lame TV shows . . . three times. Infomercials, reality shows, soap operas (Spanish and English language), sitcoms, etc. I started to think about how TV is never anything like real life, and how the art forms before that (from kabuki to comic books) never really capture it either.

So, I wondered, if I had to pick one genre of “art imitating life” to magically teleport myself to and spend all of eternity in, what would it be?

Kabuki: No way. Too many suicides and betrayals and magically talking fish. Plus, I’m not very good with the symbolism. Subtlety is not my strong suit. Next!

Opera: See Kabuki, except replace the magic fish with about 240 decibels of sound. Still far too maudlin to want to stay in forever.

Victorian Novels: Ugh. How many ways are there to say “bereft”? Tear-jerker city. Count me out.

Sitcoms: Pass. While it is appealing to get up to hijinks and talk to your friends all the time, I think life would be vaguely unsatisfying. All problems easily (and humorously!) solved is a nice perk, but never really accomplishing anything would get old.

Teen Movies: This one was an entertaining thought. While it would be appealing to have the misunderstood/underappreciated triumph over the generically popular, who wants to deal with high school politics their entire life? No, thank you.

Independent Films: Don’t get me wrong here – I LOVE independent films, but there’s no way I’d want to live in one. 90% of the films that get made (if not released) are a hot mess. Plus, one of the hallmarks of independent cinema is that there’s no “Hollywood ending” – as often as not, it ends poorly for the protagonist. And, if you’re going to be exiting real life to be in a scripted world, wouldn’t you at least like to be guaranteed that things will end up okay? Me too.

Dramas (TV, Movie, whatever): No way. What if you got stuck in a Lifetime movie???

Comic Books: While it would be unsettling to know that the world is perpetually in imminent danger from the mad plans of a charasmatic Super Villiain, how cool would it be to have special powers? However, since odds are I would end up a lame sidekick or, I don’t know, damsel in distress or something, I pass.

And that’s about as far as I got. I wasn’t able to come up with an answer, of course, but that’s okay. It’s kind of like the “Experience Machine” debate we had in Philosophy

“Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, preprogramming your life’s desires?…Of course, while in the tank you won’t know that you’re there; you’ll think it’s all actually happening. Others can also plug in to have the experiences they want, so there’s no need to stay unplugged to serve them. (Ignore problems such as who will service the machines if everyone plugs in.) Would you plug in? What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside?” (Robert Nozick, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”)

How much do YOU value reality?  Would you plug in to an experience machine? If so, which genre would your reality machine subscribe to?


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