April 12, 2006

Indy Shrink

We have been talking over these last weeks about celebrity, the role of people, especially entertainers, TV and movie stars etc., in our lives. We have come to understand that we have a sort of ambiguous relationship with them, prizing their ability to make us laugh or cry or feel suspense on the one hand, and jealous and intolerant of their foibles and foolishness in real life on the other.

In their guise as privileged people of wealth and material advantage, celebrities may raise envy; we may wish we had some of their apparent ease and access to the high life splashed on society pages and in gossip columns. However, I think the primary value of celebrities, especially those who entertain us in films and TV shows, is in their creation for us of worlds that can be made to make sense. Now the sense these worlds make may be funny, absurd, dangerous, outrageous in so many ways, still, in the created world of films and shows, the writers and creative people are in charge and they very much are aiming to please and engage us as successfully as they can. Their livelihoods and those of the actors/actresses themselves depend upon our fickle approval.

If we stop watching, if we become distracted or bored with how a storyline is progressing, then the whole enterprise of the show is in jeopardy. Just think of all the shows introduced each fall on television and how many of them disappear after a few episodes. Some shows become unexpected hits, like the reality shows and currently "American Idol." This is a good example because it is an interesting combination of control being exercised by a panel of judges and then ultimately it being put into the hands of the audience who votes on who will come out on top. That leverage of control which the show producers have put into it is I think one of the top reasons why it has become so very popular.

Our lives are filled with realities that we don't control. That dimension faces us in minor and major ways each and every day of our lives. When we look to be entertained, we like to operate on two levels. By far, our expectation is that whoever is creating the story lines will keep us engaged. We love twists and turns, unexpected outcomes, and alterations, all of course within the general framework of knowing the ultimate outcome in most cases. I spoke of "24" last week, perhaps the most successful example of a show that depends upon the plot being unpredictable, at least in the short term. That we love. We want the hero to be challenged to the maximum, brought to the edge of doom and apparent likely demise over and over again, but of course all to ultimately triumph in a manner that itself is unexpected.

So we love control. Most times the writers supply this for us by clever plot creation that sustains suspense and interest without destroying the hero/heroine. In other cases, if we can be given a voice in the outcome, that is wonderful as well. We feel a part of things, part of a world that will make sense time and time again, a world certainly apart from the world we experience in our own lives where no such assurances are available. Let me know what you think.

Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a life coach, marital counselor with offices in Hampton Bays and Garden City. His views can be seen at frankmosca.com.

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