March 31, 2012

That guy sure is a character!

Throughout my life, I've used entertainment, like many Americans, as an escape from reality. As I'm nearing age 30, I've spent more time questioning that effect on my life. Is this escapism creating a false sense of reality in me and is it in turn affecting my expectations in life?

What makes fictional stories so different than reality? I thought about this a lot the other day, as my wife was watching Office Space on Netflix, a movie about a disgruntled office employee. The main character goes about life in a careless way, with everything falling into place even though he'd given up all effort to be productive at his job. I could never be late for work everyday and skip the days I don't feel like coming in, all while having a “I don't care” attitude and tearing down my cubicle, without the consequence of losing my job. But this character did, in fact he got a promotion, and it made for a great story.

The difference is, I have bills, 2 cats, and a wife. However, there's that part of me that desires more chaos in the world and a bit more freedom. It's that part of me that wonders if these characters are truly so far fetched. It's not that we can't be outrageous, it's that we won't. Pressures from society and fear of being different, or abnormal, save us from potentially making fools of ourselves. That is, unless you live in Berkeley, CA.

A good story has colorful characters, each with their own flavor. The problem with real life, at least in American society, is that we're so caught up with fitting in, that the the lines of individuality become thin. When someone acts out of the norm, such as owning a flock of cats, or tattooing feline spots on their face, they're looked at as freaks. But at the same time, many people suppress their desire to stand out in fear of being ostracized. Where's the fun in that?

So I've come to the conclusion that many of these fictional stories, that masterfully transport our minds to a place more colorful, are not so out of touch as we are from life. People can, and should be eccentric, they should take chances, and their appearance should reflect how they feel inside instead of adhering to social pressure. Remember that character is defined as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. Do you have character?

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