Photographic/Soundbite Reality

Photographs, when they are of people, kill people’s spirits; they freeze the human soul at one single moment in time and, in this sense, kill it, for the soul’s life is contingent on being in a constant state of flux, an endless state of change. Photographs stop and, thus, kill life. Life is change. Change is life.


Myths are created by photographs and soundbites (or clever quotes) of people. People see a photograph that captures the human soul at only one particular moment in time and judge the person photographed according to that image. The problem is that there is no way we can properly judge a person according to a photograph, a quote or a soundbite. The reality of a person is more complex than what these things make them out to be.


The main problem is when people become who they are in that one photograph, quote or soundbite. They have an innate tendency to do this because it simplifies their selves (people, by nature, fear complexity), but in doing so they become less of a man and more of a myth. Our culture, which is filled with photos, quotes and soundbites (from the media) is becoming a mythical world. People think that in order to fit in or be accepted as normal, they have to lock themselves into one, simple identity - a mythical identity. Doing this kills their souls. They either become so far detached from their soul that they become detached from reality (for the human soul, which produces feelings, is the only true reality we can experience) or they repress their soul to a point where the soul (the feelings) swells into a destructive force, thus turning them into a beast. A culture - like America - filled with people who have repressed their souls collectively turns into a giant beast capable of doing harmful things.


People like the paparazzi are basically murderers in this sense. They go around killing people by taking photos that kill the soul, create mythical identities of the people photographed and expose these various mythical identities to the public. The public, in turn, becomes filled with myths, not men. The culture becomes a mythical world that is detached from reality.


This “photograph reality” is very artificial. People photograph only what they want to remember and choose photographs that portray themselves in a way that they want to see themselves as. An unflattering photo of yourself gets tossed. A flattering photo gets saved and showed to others. These photographs become our memories. They make up our history. But how accurate is history (or our memories) if the photographs, quotes and soundbites that make up history are all handpicked by man? True reality doesn’t make it into the history books. History is, in a lot of ways, only what we want to remember and how we want to remember it. The film MEMENTO touches on this issue.


Photographs always serve the purposes of men, mainly members of the media. They are taken and chosen according to what will work in a news story or, for non-media people, what will represent the reality they want to believe they are a part of. But in no way do they capture true reality. Then again, it may be impossible to capture true reality because images and words (our only means of reporting on reality) can only do so much. Reality only exists in our self, and the problem is when we start thinking reality exists outside of the self. Or, in other words, the problem is when we start seeing the reality portrayed in words and images (in the media) as THE reality. A common, “normal” reality doesn’t exist and as soon as we start thinking it does, we become detached from our selves and our relative realities.


The Simple Self

Our culture has gotten to a point where the only way to get people to listen to you is if you reduce your thoughts into a clever quote or soundbite. If it’s not short, sweet and clever, then it won’t be heard. This forces people to simplify the way in which they express themselves; otherwise, nobody will take the time to listen to them. We are living in a world of instant gratification. If you can’t “pitch” your self (who you are) and your expressions (i.e. ideas, opinions, feelings) in simple terms, people won’t pay attention to you or take any interest in you.


People naturally stay clear of chaos and a person who doesn’t oversimplify themselves becomes an alien because they are the personification of chaos to others. But people, by nature, are chaotic beings. The soul IS chaos. This means you have to kill your self in order to be accepted and understood by people. If you can’t define who you are in simple, definitive terms, people are afraid of you.


The overall human error is the failure to acknowledge that reality is complexity and when everything becomes simplified in such a way, true reality gets lost. We lose our selves. Our selves are the only true reality.


Man Becoming Myth

Here is an example to follow: The Paris Hilton we see in the movies, TV and tabloids is not the real Paris Hilton. It is the mythical Paris Hilton. The myth is what we see. The man is nowhere to be seen. We define her overall being in terms of the myth that is fed to us by the media, so we mistakenly perceive her myth as being man. Since Paris Hilton is portrayed as perfect, we - at least subconsciously - start to see her mythical identity as being an ideal identity, which leads us to do one of two things: we either a) start to conform to that ideal (aka mythical) identity and dismiss our personal chaotic identity as undesirable or b) realize that we can never become the kind of ideal identity we see Paris Hilton being portrayed as and start to loathe ourselves in consequence. In other words, somebody like the mythical Paris Hilton either leads people to kill themselves by trying to become all myth, no man, or leads them to just hate the man that they are. The only way to prevent this from happening is if the media becomes less mythical, because the media is what people turn to in order to find out what is and isn’t ideal, or at least what is and isn’t normal.


Women may be bigger victims of this than men, as every woman in the media is so ideal and perfect and, thus, more mythical than the men in the media. This, I think, is the source of anorexia and bulimia and other disorders rooted in female self-loathing. There is more pressure on women to be perfect, and this feeling has escalated in our post-feminist culture. Before the 70s, normal women were good-looking housewives. After the 70s, normal women were good-looking housewives who also had a professional job on top of everything. Feminism was a double-edged sword: on one hand it made women more equal to men, but it also raised female expectations to absurd levels. The average woman portrayed in the media is attractive and professional. They have to have good looks AND success. Before, they just had to have good looks. The situation is similar for men as well, though there isn’t as much pressure for men to be perfect; most men are portrayed as quirky and foolish and neurotic in the media of today. We have yet to see a female Woody Allen in the movies or on television. One of those would probably relieve a lot of the pressure women experience in today’s culture.


All an Illusion

Why do things have to look so perfect in the media? Whether it’s the movies, TV or even the evening news—people, places and things always have to look good. Lighting, makeup, special fx, special costume and art design, plastic surgery for actors, bleached teeth—why do these things even exist? Why is the end goal in the media to make the image as good-looking as possible? Why do people always want to deny the reality they are a part of and create the illusion of a better reality?


The general audience sees this ideal reality in the media, gets disgusted by their own reality and either conform to the ideal reality or come to a point where they realize they can’t conform and just remain depressed with their own reality. The media, in short, either kills people (in the sense that it detaches them from reality) or depresses the hell out of them.


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