Today is day two on tour. (And no I am not going to keep a daily tour diary. As soon as I promised to do that it would end in failure!) We drove through Moab, Utah, for the second time in a month. It looks like a Road Runner cartoon come to life. I was actually thinking about how comparing it to cartoon was the only way to make the geography make sense to a lot of people. Art is its own kind of communication.
When you drive out of New York, into New Jersey, you see all of these factories and plants. Kevin Russell says it looks like the work of H.R. Giger and my Dad compares it to scenes from the Mad Max movies. Either way you get the idea.
I mentioned yesterday that I was reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, about Nazi Germany. Someone from that time period mentions that some of the events in Germany then seemed a lot like the things that people saw in American cinema. (I totally could not find the page that was from to make the example more illuminating. Hey if you were in a van for 10 hours today, you wouldn’t give a fuck either!)
I know that I have often told people that a certain event was just like so and so movie or TV show. I’m sure that you have done the same as something surreal or exciting happens.
Stories have always been a way for people to communicate ideas to one another. At the same time, I think it is interesting to think about that line where fiction and reality blur. At what point is a story a means of communicating a reality and at what point does the story start to take over for reality, as people use a story as the basis for what they do in reality?
A really great book that deals with these kinds of ideas and more is Neal Gabler’s Life: The Movie. The subtitle is How Entertainment Conquered Reality. I think Gabler is one of our best critics. He understands how popular culture is influenced by history, but also how history is influenced by popular culture. (Gabler’s biography of Disney and his book about Jews in early Hollywood, An Empire of Their Own, are also must reads if you are interested in how history and pop culture intersect and influence each other.
We live in a culture where the news is often spin or distraction and reality TV is anything but. We often support politicians not for the intelligence of their ideas, but because of their capability to tell us coherent stories over multiple platforms. (Often stories that greatly contrast the reality of their ideas.) We often feel deeply about celebrities that we not only have no real connection to, but often who create nothing of value in our lives. It’s one thing to feel strongly about someone that has given voice to a truth that we have felt but not been able to express, but it is another thing entirely to feel for someone just because they are a familiar face.
However, fiction can often get to the truth in a way that sheer facts cannot. I have long felt that the movie There Will Be Blood demonstrates the relationship between big business and religion in a vivid way that is as powerful as any piece of journalism. David Lynch is somehow, through moments in his films, able to communicate the strange uncanny feeling of dreams in a way that straightforward language would never be able to.
We need, now more than ever, people that can think critically, that can at least attempt to separate fact from fiction. We need people that can tell how “reality” is often fiction. We need people that can tell how fiction can actually have a lot to say about our reality.