Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Am I Real?

Not having been in the States for almost 24 years and not owning a television, I cannot always determine the status of that which is presented to me taped and sometimes experience feelings of unreality as a result. Actually, I am not at all sure that I would be any less confused about the reality of what I might be viewing if I was back in NY or Miami Beach and "plugged in". I suspect that quite the opposite might be the case, though I would probably be less aware that I was having difficulty separating fact from fiction or being able to mentally and emotionally assimilate semi-biographical movies; mini-series loosely based on fact; a John Nash not only endowed with preternatural mathematical genius, but also the looks of Russell Crowe who is too preoccupied with, and engrossed in, his paranoid ideation to make love to Jennifer Connolly or a Suzanne Hinn.

In the case of "The Fruitcake Lady" it was entirely clear to me that it is a show, even before knowing that the links were from a Jay Leno site. OK. No questions there.

Sometimes matters are not that straightforward, though. Not having been in the states and witnessing the development of the "entertainment" industry, and finding that Western society blows my mind and seems unreal all too often (especially when it transpires that it is all too real); I get confused about whether something implausible that has been videotaped is real or a put-on if I am not prompted beforehand as to what exactly what I'm going to be viewing.

The oxymorons in the entertainment industry confound me. They are myriad, so I find myself feeling confounded more often than I should expect to. E.g., what the hell is a "reality show"? Since when do stiff upper lipped British MPs, who were formerly renowned for their dignified reserve, get down on all fours and act like cats and cavort in red leotards with someone, one breast exposed, whose gender is indeterminate? (Since when is gender entirely independent of sex? But I digress.) Now that I think about it, why have so many ex-actors made the transition to being politicians so easily? I thought that then actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was acting in the film "The Terminator". Now, as Governor of the State of California, he refuses to stay the execution of the third convict on death row in a matter of a couple of months, this time despite the doubts of a judge that the evidence against him is credible. I am left wondering if he was acting in the movie or not.

Do you remember the film Mondo Cane? The 1962 movie was considered "shock cinema". Today, images far more shocking, perverse and utterly revolting are not supposed to shock people at all, but rather serve as light-headed and light-hearted entertainment, and one is considered peculiar if they do feel that those images assault his or her sensibilities. TV is filled with images that make Mondo Cane look tame. If one protests that they are sickened by those images and suggestions, the person is considered overly sensitive, overly religious, or just plain over the hill.

Sites like and the search that someone on an e-list conducted in order to determine the status of the film clip bespeak the fact that I am hardly alone in this confusion. It's not at all clear even to people who have been steeped in Western culture all their lives if what they are viewing or reading on the net is real, some weird chimera of reality and staging, urban legend, a put-on...Note how often the site will label a given story partially true, or something to that effect. Those are the buggers. Give me the truth or a damn lie anytime, but when they create pernicious, predatory species of mental picture-inducing and emotion-stirring images and suggestions by splicing and concatenating the plausible and the implausible ostensibly willy-nilly (but I'll bet dollars to donuts it's painstakingly crafted to be conflating and emotionally overexciting, thus numbing) into some indeterminate filmed production, evolution has not provided me with a mechanism for defending myself against that. There are no such images in nature and I am at a loss. I feel like the child who, emerging from a wax museum, asks: "Am I real?", only there's a far more sinister air to it all.

There is a description on the psychiatry books for that state: borderline experience. When a person has been assaulted by the unthinkable and by that which the brain is not equipped to process more times than the brain can recover from, i.e., has had more borderline experiences than the psyche can heal from, a syndrome results - Borderline Personality Syndrome. The prognosis for BPS is far more pessimistic than for Schizophrenia. The mass media are inducing Borderline Personality Disorder in the masses and I don't believe for a moment that it is unintentional or not serving someone's purpose.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

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