I got some astute comments under last night’s Defining The Future post. That’s prompted me to continue a few more miles along that particular train of thought.
Lecroix (writing in Spanish) drew attention to Cheers and Friends as similar non-smoking influences as Star Trek. One difference is that both these TV series were set in the present, rather than the future. And Clicky pulled up a thought-provoking clip from Star Trek (Next Generation?).
What’s going on here? I thought that fiction was something that reflected reality, but now it seems that reality must reflect fiction. For as you watch Cheers or Friends you’re watching a community that gets along just fine without anybody smoking. It shows you how it’s done. And it’s easy. And now the real world is supposed to become like Cheers or Friends.
We must all become actors. We must all play our roles in the new non-smoking reality. We must all be like Norm (maybe that’s why he was called norm?) when we arrive at the pub, order a beer, but desist from lighting up. It’s easy.
And so what you now see inside more or less every bar in the world is a recreation of Cheers. Everyone has to play the role of Sam the bartender, or Norm, or Cliff, or Rebecca – pretending to be something they’re not. You even have to pretend to be having a great time, as you swap banter with other people in your non-smoking equivalent of the Cheers bar. And it’s a pretence. It’s an act.
But the people in both these series – one set in a Boston bar, the other in a New York City apartment – are highly professional actors playing out scripted roles. When the cameras stop rolling, Friends’ Jennifer Aniston lights up – because in real life she was (and maybe still is) a smoker. And maybe most of the other actors do too. Because the actress Jennifer Aniston isn’t actually the same person as the Rachel Green she plays on screen. And in fact Jennifer Aniston probably only acted out the role of Rachel for a few minutes every day that she was on set. But the rest of us poor suckers are all now supposed to pretend not to be smokers for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This is how it works: You construct a fictional world, and then get everyone to act it out in the real world. The fictional world teaches you how to play your part in reality.
So if you want, say, to organise a global Marxist revolution, you first construct a fictional TV revolutionary world, maybe featuring a brooding, handsome, charismatic Che and his heavily-armed sidekicks hacking their way through a South American rain forest. And as millions of TV viewers watch the series unfold, they learn how to be revolutionaries. They learn all the slogans and the Marxist quotes. They are maybe even shown how to dismantle and load and fire an AK-47. All they then have to do is to act out those roles in real life.
Or how about maybe you construct a fictional world in which carbon dioxide is killing the planet, and human civilisation has to run on sunlight and windmill power, and everyone must become a Vegan and recycle plastics?
And in many ways, movies actually are teachers. Who would have guessed what to do when Boy Meets Girl if they hadn’t seen Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall kissing in To Have And Have Not? Or how to do a car chase if they hadn’t seen Steve McQueen in Bullitt? Or a gunfight if they hadn’t seen Clint Eastwood in For A Fistful Of Dollars?
Might it work? No. The problem is that when you make reality conform to fiction, reality becomes fiction. It becomes an elaborate unreal pretence. And everyone becomes a hypocrite, lighting up the moment the cameras stop rolling (i.e. when nobody is watching). A world in which everyone must play their allotted roles is a world that has itself become a staged play in front of a staged audience.
And maybe you can just eliminate poverty by eliminating it in your fictional representation of the world. From Clicky’s clip, the woman says to the fictional Mark Twain:
“Poverty was eliminated on earth a long time ago. And a lot of other things disappeared with it. Hopelessness. Despair. Cruelty.”
See? Easy! And you can eliminate hopelessness, despair, and cruelty at the same time.