Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Horror and Vulnerability

I stumbled across an old blog I used to read but lost track of sometime a year ago. Jack Monahan's blog on game design specifically. He does little "reboots" of games, trying to point out flaws in the design and illustrating suggestions for how to fix them. Even if you're not a game designer, it's interesting to read to learn more about aesthetics and practical considerations in media. Anyway, here's a link to the article he posted that got me thinking today in which he talks about a design reboot of Clive Barker's Jericho:


And this quote in particular got my eye when he described the characters in the game:

What's horrifying about these gothic sulks having to deal with the end of the world, aren't all their own apartments furnished in the same style as the oozing rivers of blood and hellscape they now traverse? In other words, the team seems to be lacking dramatic contrast to their environment. Far from being put out and suggesting fear and terror as appropriate responses, they seem at home.

Stop and think about that for a second. Could there be a problem of contrast in your own performances? Especially if you're doing bizarre magic. Just let that stew for a while and ask yourself honestly if you really have the right look for what you're doing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Who You Are vs. What's Expected

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but as of late I find myself strangely fascinated by Lady Gaga. I'm ambivalent about her music, and think she's rather full of herself, but I can't deny that she's made pop stars interesting again. For the sake of fairness and expressing an open mind, I listened to her most recent album and found that all of the songs featuring her "be yourself" message and heavy on bombastic self-empowerment were the worst songs on the album. It got me thinking.

Who we are is not the person we project to every person. You are not the same person to your mother that you are to your lover. You are not the same person to your boss that you are to your dog. There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself. The Japanese built their whole culture and society around the idea that there is reality as you perceive it and as how everyone else filters it. They even have unique words for this: honne and tatamae respectively. Neither one is inherently more true than the other, they're just two sides of the same coin.

Somewhere along the way, I began to see how these two concepts relate to one another. Some magicians are not in this to become working pros. It's just something they like to do. And that's fine, but there's still an interesting thing happening. Magician You and Regular You are not the same person. I consider myself an actor as magicians go. I portray a character. But I accept that reality. There are people I've seen who say they just want to be themselves, but around a pretty girl or as soon as you put a deck of cards in their hands, they start acting like a completely different person. It's weird. And more often than not, this other persona comes across as a bit uncanny. It doesn't feel like a person. Just the shadow of a person.

What do I think is happening? An unnecessary clash of honne and tatamae. These people are a lot like Lady Gaga who has actually fought to avoid being photographed out of her makeup and costumes. There is the reality that you perceive, your honne, and it is conflicting with the rest of the world's tatamae because you are trying to become more like the tatamae.

This is just a theory of course. I'm not an actual psychologist or sociologist. But ask yourself: Is the way I'm acting now a part of how a perceive myself? Or am I hiding parts of myself behind a different facade to avoid any negative social happenstances?