The real world.  We have always been conditioned to be ready for it and warned to pass its test.

Not only do we get reminded every day about what this ‘real world” consists of; we also have many prognosticators and pundits argue about who is a “real person” and who is in contrast, a truly fake one.  It happens so much that it rubs off on us too as we refer to other counterfeit, non-essential types as being “not real people.”  I see this applied to celebrities versus regular folks like you and me for instance.

We see “real people” depictions all the time of actors on TV commercials doing a better job than we ever could of being happy and fulfilled, while looking a heck of a lot better than we and our inner circle ever could.  And behind every act of love is a sales pitch for some product.  The Kay Jewelers logo coincidentally parked above the engagement ring.  The snickers bar positioned right by the groovy teenagers skate boarding outside while pretending to be rebellious and cool.

The biggest enigma is how we view actors and acting.  On one hand, we extol the art of acting as one of the most noble breakthroughs possible as an artist—the ability to inhabit some other character that strikes some common chord in all of us.  On the other, we reserve contempt for the notion of actors pretending to be REAL people in television commercials, especially the long winded prescription drug ads that have become the bane of TV in this new era of touting full disclosure of the most embarrassing personal detail imaginable.

I know in my case, that the plethora of prescription drug MINI plots in the form of TV ads is the most maddening to endure.  It makes all my senses what to SCREAM OUT—“I don’t know you people.  Why should I invest any emotion into this?”  The only logical thing to do at this point is to then pull out a pistol, in full Elvis Presley mode, and shoot out the screen!

But it is funny to see what type of people get viewed as “REAL” or ‘NOT REAL.”  We become categorized like some safe Hallmark movie.  The lawyer is NOT real.  The baker IS real.  So is the hometown newspaper writer.  But NOT the corporate yuppie guy.

NOT REAL.  No way.

Conversely, some ads will brag up front that the people used in their advertisements are in fact “REAL PEOPLE” and not re-enactors or paid actors at all.  And then, after complaining bitterly about all the simulated actors we despise—we then turn around and make fun of the NORMAL looking people that don’t deserve to be on TV due to their lack of dimples and Hollywood pedigree.

It’s a hilariously vicious cycle isn’t it?

The perverse thing for me regarding actors in TV ads is that I know, deep down, that I would be a disastrous choice as a person pretending to act like the REAL me I think I usually am when the camera is not visible–so self-conscious and limited a ham am I.  In fact I couldn’t even hack it as a sidewalk extra supposed to walk by nonchalantly while the chosen stars act out a scene.  I would do something phony like giggle nervously.

So even if they are phony and cliché, and only simulating some kind of real  person’s life—the fact remains that most of us could NEVER pretend to be as comfortably REAL as the actors that are pretending to depict regular folks like us.

But throughout all of this media assault, only babies and animals are true.  They aren’t stuck with that inner voice that soaks up the attention.  They are the only ones with eye contact that is free of guile and artifice.

Animals don’t count their cash or estimate their bankable assets and they are the only ones I trust in ANY depiction.

By contrast, human beings lose this capacity for being unaware on un-self-conscience almost from the first time that a compliment comes their way and they consider how they are stacking up to others.  Grade school firmly plants this system in place.

Except for babies.  As heaven would decree, very young babies are basically blameless.  No matter the gas and changing diaper fuss.  They are the only humans safe and immune from all this self-promotional hoopla.  The VERY young babies, just a few months from delivery.  After that it is all downhill.

Because we all know those older, sophisticated babies that turn too readily when the camera is pointed in their direction and ham it up a little too preciously.  24/7 their tiny little lives become can’t miss AUTOBIOGRAPHIES with the camera rolling in their heads all day!

What is the worst manifestation of all this?  Witness all the revoltingly cool fashion catalog kids that have danced and clowned for years on “back to school” TV ads all these many decades.  There is nothing more revolting.  It makes one wonder who is being exploited more—the kids wanting what the companies tell them is cool or the parents having to shell out the cash for what their kids can’t live without?  Hmm.

Those fashion model kids are the kind of kids that never gave me the time of day when I was, in turn, putting on my best self-conscious act in response to their big egos back in high school.  As you can tell, I still harbor distain and resentment.

No when it comes to people—after the age of let’s say 5–always assume that somebody is selling you something if it seems too good to believe.  Cue the close-up for the Folgers coffee or the prescription drug someone is taking before feeling spry enough to walk the dog.

Which is why, for my entertainment value this holiday season, I am going to curl up on my sofa and ONLY watch the TV channel that shows the YULE LOG burning 24/7; complete with Christmas music in the background.  Because, apart from taking some magical antacid pill after gorging on food or stocking up on liquor at a nearby ABC store before they  close for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day; it is the most reliable comforter that a poor, stressed out person can enjoy.  And the biggest treat is seeing the cat or dog wander in front of the fire place and sit down and take a nap.  It is REAL and it is genuine.  Who cares if the producer of the show is training the creatures to do this?  The animal is AWARE-less of their image or the public watching them.  So refreshing in this day and age of ultra-savvy, marketing sophistication.  It is still a REAL cat or dog doing real cat and dog things.  All for our enjoyment and without our needing to feed or discipline them.  Even when the dog chews on the bottom of the pine needles of the tree display, it is OK.

Sorry babies.  The pets win out overall.  I believe in this cozy, fire crackling hearth scene above all others.  It rests me securely inside some kind of CHRISTMAS past that is completely safe and MODEL free—forever!



About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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