The news has been horrifying and addictive this week, with catastrophe piled on catastrophe, to a degree that–if I had read this in a book or seen it in a movie–I’d be protesting that it was just too unlikely, too farfetched.
But, topics for novels get ripped from the headlines all the time. Or real-life events remind you of fiction (whether “believable” or not) that you’ve read but never expected to see. Or real life comes up with an event so unbelievable that it stretches you sense of reality.
Hmm … I can’t quite come up with an outright question to ask, but thinking about the theory of fiction and how it can affect and be affected by real world events can act as a buffer between the horrific events on the news and having to actually face that horror. So … what happens when the line between fiction and reality becomes all-too slim? Discuss!
Interesting topic this week, especially in light of how the storyline on this week’s episode of The Event paralleled what was happening in the real world. (I don’t watch the show anymore, but I saw a Jeer of NBC for airing the show on-line).
In many ways, it reminds me a bit of what happened during the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The day after the tragic events at Columbine occurred, Buffy was set to air an episode that dealt with a student’s desire to do harm to his classmates. Thanks to an infection of demon blood temporarily giving her telepathic powers, Buffy overhears the thought and spends much of the episode trying to stop it. Out of sensitivity to what happened the day before, the episode was shelved. At the time, I understood and just hoped that we’d eventually get to see the episode once things calmed down a bit. However, the reaction reached absurd heights just two weeks later when the WB pulled the second half of the two-part season finale because a plotline involved bringing crossbows and such to the graduation ceremony to battle the mayor after he turned into a giant snake. Apparently, we didn’t want to risk alienating the psychotic public servants who had ties to the occult and were turning into big giant snakes crowd.
Of course, eerie predictions from fiction are nothing new. I recall when 9/11 happened that a lot of people pointed out that the pilot to The Lone Gunman had a plot about terrorists wanting to crash planes into the World Trade Center. (It had aired a few months before). And, of course, at the time, there was discussion of whether or not 24 should be pulled and if The X-Files with its mythology of trust no one in the government could and should continue. And while there are some parallels, I think a lot of us took comfort in watching Jack Bauer take on and defeat terrorists. Also, anyone who’s watched the show knows its a fantasy since no one can drive around DC, LA or New York from location to location in under ten minutes as the show so often did.
Seriously though, I do think it’s interesting when popular entertainment or literature has parallels with the real world. I don’t necessarily think banning or not allowing anyone to read it is the wisest course. Bringing this back to books, I’m reminded of the furor that comes over certain books and their being damaging to young minds. And to that, I say, yes certain books given to certain people when they’re not ready for them can have a negative impact. But that’s where I think parenting and the community steps into things and has a responsibility. As a friend of mine said a few days after Columbine, if I’m so disconnected from my kids that they can build pipe bombs in my house and I don’t know it, I’ve failed as a parent.
I think there is such a thing as age appropriate for reading material and popular entertainment. And while we can argue about whether or not the MPAA does a good job of rating films, we can at least argue they do give some guidelines to parents. And I also feel that by banning or forbidding kids and adults from reading certain books, you only make them more appealing and encourage them to seek them out more. Instead of saying to a kid, “No you can’t ready Harry Potter” or “No, you can’t read Catcher in the Rye,” instead take the chance to do some real parenting or mentoring. Read it with them, talk to them about it, encourage them to come to you with questions. If you disagree with a certain principle or philosophy espoused by a book, movie or other form of entertainment, at least be able to discuss why you do and back it up with arguments and points.
I also think that too often we’re willing to believe the hype about something and not really take the time to investigate it for ourselves.