Skewed Expectations = Skewed Reality

We all know the feeling when we finish a good book or an interesting movie, we wish our lives were like Starlord and filled with spontaneous dancing, like Katniss Everdeen unable to choose between her two love interests, and even like Harry Potter, saving the world one horcrux at a time. For a day or so our minds ponder what life like this character would look like and we try to embody their spirit by making decisions maybe they would make. However, after a few days, the realization dawns that those books/movies aren't real life, and we can't live like the characters in those books/movies. Why does this always happen?

This semester I have the privilege of taking a Film and Literature class where I read Sherlock Holmes and X-men comics and watch The Matrix and Fellowship of the Ring. Amazing right!? An English major nerd couldn't ask for anything more fun. However, I am now learning and identifying the ways that movies and books skew our idea of reality. 

When you read a book you see the world through the narrator/author and their focus on certain parts of the world as they understand it. If you think about it, you are never exposed to the full reality of a character in a story, you are only exposed to what the author wants you to be exposed to through the character's eyes. When you read a book, it's hard to understand this because you see the reality of the story as what the author tells you but you are actually just being manipulated into an understanding of the reality by the author. 

This is the exact same in movies and film. A good example of this is a talk show, even if it's not a movie. In a talk show what do you see as a viewer? You see the people sitting in the chairs having a conversation. You see the backdrop. You see the cup of coffee on the desk. However, if you are in the audience of a talk show, what do you see? You see the camera jerry rig moving around the set. You see the producer whispering frantically into a headset. You see a makeup artist waiting for a break to touch up the talk show host's makeup. Your understanding of the show is based on what the producer wants you to see, which is not all the work that goes into the making of the show, but the perfected product. 

For this reason, books and movies can be very dangerous if not understood properly. People love to escape the world we live in by reading a book that will take them away, or watching a movie that depicts another life to live. 

I argue that this is the case because movies and books depict life in an unreal and skewed manner, and a way in which we want our lives to look like, but know deep down, will never happen because it's unreal and skewed. All of this is accomplished through rhetoric, which is the way you use words in order to argue something or get something across. This is used all the time in everyday life. The words you say may sound one way, but mean another if throughly analyzed. Politicians do this all the time through making something sound a lot better than it actually does. 

In books, the author presents the world and characters in a certain way in order to guide you into thinking a certain thing, using rhetoric. A great example of this is through Fifty Shades of Grey. Disclaimer: I have not read these books, nor do I ever plan on reading these books, but based on the various literature I have read about these books, I feel like I have a grasp of what goes on rhetorically, through them. If you listen to people defend this chronicle of sexual abuse, they defend it by using the argument of Christian Grey actually loving Anastasia Steele at the end of the series. While this may have come to pass throughout the books, it does not justify sexual abuse. Through rhetoric and the way he presents the reality of Christian Grey, E.L. James manipulates his readers into the acceptance of sexual abuse, thus paving the way for a lot worse to be written in books. 

In movies, manipulation into a certain way of viewing something is also done. Through camera angles, shadows and expressions on character's faces, a movie director can change your feelings and thoughts about what is going on thus changing your idea of what is going on. This is shown especially through Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. In the scene where Bruno tells Guy that's he's murdered Guy's wife Miriam, Bruno is behind a fence, which is indicative of him being behind bars. As he continues to tell Guy about what he did and try to convince Guy to murder Bruno's father, Guy ends up behind the fence thus indicating his knowledge of information that could put him in jail since people already think he might have murdered his wife. Hitchcock then does a shot looking through the fence to Guy's apartment where it is unclear through whose perspective we are looking which equates the murderer Bruno, with the innocent Guy. 


Just the placement of the actors and the shadows along with the script of the actors cements in the viewer's minds what Alfred Hitchcock is trying to get across through this movie and what Patricia Highsmith was trying to get across in her book Strangers on a Train: that anyone can commit murder. 

The danger of books and movies is when we find dissatisfaction in our lives when we don't have the luck of Ben Gates in finding hidden treasure, the power of Katniss Everdeen and the romance of Rose and Jack. We cannot base our happiness in life on the lives of characters in books and movies. As you can see through the examples above, reality is manipulated and shaped based on what the author/director wants you to understand and get out of the book/movie. We have been given life, and life abundant, but we need to enjoy it through living it, not through living according to a book or movie. 

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