There was an interesting discussion after my last article, Welcome Back, Sandra Dee, regarding actresses, the roles they play, and who are they in “real life.” There was mention of how who we are is often shaped by social expectations, and even a bit of philosophical discussion regarding our lives being an illusion and a play.
As interesting as this discussion is, and I hope it continues, I think that in many ways the images are more important than the “reality,” or at least the “reality” in the sense of our physical existence. I understand that this is contrary to the view of modern society. We are fascinated by the “real lives” of celebrities, which generally consists of prying into the darkest and dirtiest parts of their lives. We are particularly fascinated when the “real lives” of actresses, or other celebrities do not match the characters they play or the images they present.
I think that this fascination is a bit misguided, though, and I also think it is not really useful for those of us trying to clean and purify our Image Spheres for various reasons.
One of the reasons is that people are complicated. We all play many different roles in our lives. We play roles as parents, as students, as workers, as friends, and the list goes on and on. Which one of these roles are “real”? I think the answer to that is that they are all “real,” even though they are likely quite different.
People are also complicated in that we all have a True Self and a False Self. On a basic level, our True Self is our better self, and our False Self is who we are when we succumb to temptation. Using a popular media image, our True Self is the little angel on our shoulder, and our False Self is the little devil. This idea is a bit foreign to modern, cynical thinking, which seems to operating under the belief that we are being “real” when we are at our worst. Actually, it is interesting that there are currently many “reality shows” being produced that create artificial situations that often have the effect of bringing out the worst in people.
Aside from the complicated nature of people, when we are working to purify our Image Sphere, we are making choices as to what we are exposing ourselves to. In our day to day interactions in the physical world, there are many situations that we do not have control over. We can not always avoid ugly or poisonous things. We are not always capable of creating a living environment that nurtures our soul.
Given that there are many things we do not have control over, when we do have control over our Image Sphere, it makes a lot of sense to choose good and healthy images. Do these images represent the “reality” of the past or of another culture? Some of the answer to that question depends on what one defines as “reality,” of course. To avoid that difficulty, I think an easier question would be whether the images accurately depict the physical circumstances of the past or another culture. If one phrases it that way, the answer is likely that it does in some ways, and it does not in others.
On the other hand, when we get too much caught up in that analysis, I think we lose sight of what we are trying to do. I think that the media we create and consume reflects our values and our ideals. These are the stories we are choosing to tell and to listen to.
While the stories that we tell and hear may on some level reflect the physical, material circumstances that we find ourselves in, they also help shape and define our circumstances. If we are trying to make changes in our lives to let our True Selves or our best selves shine forth, we need role models and examples. I see nothing wrong with these role models being fictional characters. I also see nothing wrong in allowing the actresses who bring these fictional characters to life being role models as well.
I think that this was understood in the past. The images of actresses and movie stars were carefully preserved to hide their faults and their struggles. Nowadays, there seems to be a great deal of effort spent on exposing the carefully hidden faults and struggles of the role models of the past and celebrating the bad behavior and faults of those who would be the role models of the present. Much of the time, this is done in the name of “exposing the truth.”
Yet, is this really “exposing the truth,” or is it creating an illusion of an ugly and cynical world? If our role models are celebrated for behaving badly, and if we are taught that this is “reality,” how will we ever aspire to, well, anything?
A metaphor to this might be a beautiful ceramic vase that has a flaw in it. Does it make sense to turn the vase so that the flaw is visible and draw a black marker around the flaw to make the flaw more obvious? Wouldn’t it make more sense to position the vase so the flaw can not be seen?
I think that all of us are beautiful vases with flaws, including celebrities. The choice that we have is whether to highlight our beauty or highlight our flaws. It seems an easy choice when looked at in this light, I think.