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Extraordinary Fiction & Bullshit Claims
2005.03.25 (Fri) 18:47
It seems that some people took our commentary on Allison DuBois to mean that we don't like the show Medium. Just to set the record straight, that is not at all what we were saying. In fact, we don't watch much network television, so we've never seen the show, and we wouldn't comment on it without first knowing something about it. For all we know, Medium could be the best television program on the air today, but that's not what we were writing about. In fact, across all five posts, we never once put down the show itself, or the actors, or the writing, or the premise. We only take exception to the fact that they are peddling it as "real" instead of just calling it fiction.
Let's set Medium aside for a moment, and talk in general about extraordinary claims in movies, television, and other media. To be clear, we have no problem at all with fiction that revolves around fantastic events. Some of our favorite entertainment falls into this category; Ghostbusters comes to mind as a prime example. In case you've been living under a rock since 1984, Ghostbusters recounts the tale of a group of paranormal investigators as they find definitive proof of the supernatural. We love that movie, and we have no problem suspending disbelief for 105 minutes in order to enjoy it, and the same goes for countless other movies, shows, and books that demand the same temporary credulity. Our problem is with fiction that tries to masquerade as reality by tagging on the old bullshit moniker of "based on a true story." We have no desire to bring the bullshit with us when we leave.
So, does the fact that an otherwise good piece of fiction claims to be true negate its strong points? In general, the answer is no — by all means, feel free to enjoy the show, with our best wishes. For us, however, the answer is probably yes, since the annoyance derived from the bogus claims would likely override any enjoyment that the show could provide us with. But that's just our opinion. If someone tells us that they like the show Medium, that's just fine — we won't start an argument or bring up DuBois' claims, unless the "based on a true story" line is tossed at us first. In point of fact, that is exactly how our friend Steve reacted, per Part I of Allison DuBois Week.
That said, we will say that, as a matter of personal preference, we also enjoy entertainment that puts bullshit in its place. For example, we recently caught a rerun of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in which Martin Short guest stars as a psychic. Over the course of the show, the detectives clearly explained how he was faking his psychic abilities by explaining cold reading, hot reading, analysis of facial expressions, and various other known tactics. They also clearly showed how the psychic was taking advantage of the victim's family, and stated that psychics had never helped the police while referring to the numerous failed psychic claims on some well known cases. Boy did we enjoy that! Then we changed the channel and watched an episode of the Twilight Zone in which a possessed slot machine stalks a man, and that was fun, too.
In closing, there's a big difference between fiction and reality, and for our part, we'd like to keep that gap in place. We stated our feelings about this pretty directly in Based On a True Story? White Noise and EVP:
Don't get us wrong — entertainment that embraces impossible and fantastic concepts and events in order to move their story forward are great, and personally we love movies, television, books, and other forms of entertainment that fall into this category. The problem comes when people start to pitch this crap as "real" and not just a story. To us, it's the same thing as needing to believe that in 1997, the machines will take over and start building Terminators...or that we're all really plugged in to the Matrix...in order to enjoy those movies; it's just plain stupid. You don't need fiction to be real in order to appreciate it; that's the wonderful thing about human imagination.
Human imagination is a wonderful thing. It can temporarily turn otherwise skeptical people into "true believers" for the duration of the show. In the context of the fictional world, we can root for the psychics, cheer for the ghost hunters, and easily swallow any fantastic claim in wide-eyed acceptance. So feel free to enjoy these shows — we do. But when the curtains go down, and the lights come up, take our advice — leave the bullshit in the theatre. You don't need it.
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[ Filed under: % Allison DuBois Week % Bullshit % Media & Censorship ]
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