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Actors and Characters

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

One consequence of a society with such a rich cultural legacy is an automatic application of narrative to explain events and people in reality. We ask “Does art reflect reality or does reality reflect art?” A question suggestive of the constant interplay between our creations and our surrounding. The question remains unanswered because it is a paradox: there is no distinction because all art is from reality and all reality stems directly from art. Does objectivity even exist, or has our subjective reality (art) so educated our perspectives that all our truths are invisibly knotted with the narratives of our world.

As an application of this idea, consider the ways in which we seek to understand a new politician. In a situation where an unknown figure emerges and draws immediate attention, the general public draws comparisons of this new figure with the futures of old. We trace physical features of previous leaders, common political opinions or forms of delivery to categorize the new figure. There was only ever one original politician, every figure that followed thereafter was an amalgamation of all who came before. Just as we use previous figures to understand the figure, the figure used these models when formulating his/her political character.

From the cognitive frame of history and legacy we formulate our heroes and villains. There are no new figures; instead the leaders in society are configurations of great figures of the past.

It is not only leaders who use these “models of legacy” in formulating identity. Ironically, figures who aim to break away from society utilize images of previous misfits and social pariahs to create their own formulation of alienation. Social misfits display a keen observation when crafting their anti-social identities with clear ties to anti-social figures of the past. Legacies of physical characteristics, dress patterns and speech behavior are re-applied as a device of the anti-social figure to create an easily identifiable character that both he/she and society at large will recognize as anti-social.

We subscribe to the process of categorization as a means to better understand the diversity of population. A world of infinite variety, wherein great heroes and great villains show no distinguishing features leaves us unable to identify their role in reality. As a means of making sense and drawing connection these common features are used both audience and actor to suggest identity and assist in interpretation.

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