Thoughts On: Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind
The story of Chuck Barris, the television producer of shows such as The Dating Game and The Gong Show who was also immersed in covert CIA operatives.
What I love about this film is its reflection of society through character and its incredibly nuanced form and structuring of plot. It’s only downfalls come with the exuberance and insanity of its characters and situations which sometimes sully the quality of atmosphere and dramatic tension. Whilst this makes complete sense considering the vacuous fixation on facade that many of these characters have, and so can’t detract from the critical acclaim and meaning of the movie, it does cheapen the experience a little. That said, what is most poignant about this film is us, is the dangerous mind that revolutionised entertainment, changing it forever. It’s The Gong Show’s format that we see spliced across all talent shows, almost anything to do with competition and even debate on TV today. There are so many examples I could give, I feel like there’s no need for me to do it. The same goes for The Dating Game. Anything to do with reality TV, love, romance and a whole lot of other lies has grounds in this format of television – and that’s exactly what Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind demonstrates. What this brings to the table today is linked nicely to the previous Quick Thoughts I did on 99 Homes. I touched on its poignant juxtaposition between business and emotions, and I left that talk with a question to you that basically asked how you’d like to see society change. Would you like everything to become more business like, more Darwinian with the best of the best rising to the top – even if a vast swath of those people aren’t scientists, engineers or deserving geniuses, but greedy con-men who essentially know how a system works? Or would you prefer we all live in an extremely socialist state, where meritocracy goes out the window and we all hold hands and dance all day? Now, your answer is most probably not going to be either one of those, instead, will lean toward one extreme or the other to a specific degree. I personally lean more toward the unemotional, Darwinian, kill or be killed world. I’d hate to live in a society that is exactly that (kill or be killed) but I lean closer toward that than hugs, kisses and unconditional love. I say this because I couldn’t unconditionally love everyone, I wouldn’t want to pretend I did either because it’d be a lie. In all honesty, I wouldn’t want to live in a society where we’re all really nice to each other. I’d like to live in a place of respect, of smiles and hellos when necessary and when you mean it, but not all the time. Moreover, I like the scary feeling of hurtling movement in society. I like that, as I write this, in a matter of weeks Americans will have to choose between Trump and Clinton. It’s a bit fucked up, maybe even a funny situation to be in, but I love that giddy feeling of ‘oooooohhhhhh shiiiiiiit!!!’.
I suppose I sound kind of nihilistic, flippant, and overall a dickhead when I say that, but if I were to give a more concise personal truth to the idea of hurtling, scary movement, I’d have to say that I like it, not love it. What’s more, I try to accept it. Time seems to be a physical force, it seems to be the one in control and because of this, no matter what. day will turn to night. You can either hold onto light or fear the dark with a binary mindset, a rigid, right and wrong perception of the world. And, to me, that seems self-destructive and at the least no very productive. When you recognise that day and night are, metaphorically, all about light, about perception, you can look at the world pragmatically, even have fun with it, not call doomsday and lose your shit. Night is darkness, it’s the bad things, the scary things, it’s Clinton winning when you voted for Trump, it’s Trump winning when you voted for Clinton. But, take a step back and night is darkness – and darkness is a blank canvas. Darkness is the absence of light to a mind that is attached to an eye only capable of perceiving with the electromagnetic oscillation of photons. When our eyes find darkness, our minds start painting it over, they start imagining monsters, evil, ghosts, demons. And the metaphor stands true for presidential elections as it does the whole concept of optimism and pessimism. When you want to see pitch, abysmal darkness, you allow yourself to fill in the gaps, to predict and imagine the worst – and at your own expense. When you look at things in their true light, not projecting your own with false optimism, you can navigate the world as it stands. So, nihilism would then be seeing darkness, pretending it’s light and saying fuck it – and that’s kind of me finding what could be a terrible situation in America funny. But, the truth is that time will reveal reality. And in all probability, reality won’t be as bad as you imagined, neither will it be as good. We will be able to deal with it and navigate the light as it shines. That is the reason why I like the hurtling movement that scares the shit out of me. The hurtling movement is toward an unknown and when it brings me there, I’ll find out that it’s not so bad. Bringing this back a step again, when you want the world to be hugs and kisses, you want a world that is predictable, that is always going to catch you when you fall, that is always going to ensure things stay the same. You are essentially trying to take away the power of time. This is an impossibility, and in the happy, hugs and kisses world, bad shit will still happen. But, when it does, we won’t be as prepared for it, not mentally, and we won’t be able to deal with it as well as the level headed and unemotional. That is my position on question I gave.
But, what on Earth has that got to do with Confessions Of A Dangerous Mine? Well, Confessions Of A Dangerous mind does two things. Firstly, it demonstrates the hurtling of time with the success of Chuck, whilst also making the hurting absolutely terrifying with how insane his life is, despite how intense his influence became. Secondly, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind sets up a similar line of questioning to the emotional and unemotional debate I just had with myself. And its this that I want to zoom in on. With entertainment as a theme, not money, government, families and society (like 99 Homes) Confessions reflects a different perspective on the debate. Chuck, with his TV shows, represents an emotional extreme as well as an unemotional one. His shows stimulate the audience, but they stimulate to the point of having a numbing effect. If we look at modern reality TV shows we can clarify what I’m saying. Reality TV is all about drama, is all about quick cuts, broken story lines, fights, screaming, shouting and just general mania. It’s inside the television that you find emotional intensity and extremes. But, what this translates to through the screen is the anaesthetising of the home viewer. They watch vacuous and empty television purely built to entertain, nothing more, and they do nothing but stare, almost zombified. I know this because we all do. We don’t just do it with bad TV, but bad movies and shitty content on the internet too. We scroll and we click endlessly, our brains agitated when there’s nothing flying at our eyeballs of no consequence, of no meaning. We aren’t bettering ourselves, we are chipping away at our own idea of self. And, as much as this sounds stupid and like I’m moaning, this is a very serious thing we are doing, and if you want to ignore that, well, who am I to stop you? But, consuming shit TV, films and content hurts you the most because our media becomes our world, it becomes our encompassing self. What I mean by this is that when I watch 2 or 3 films a day for years, I become a film geek. Film is all I can talk about, all I know, and all I want to be around. In the same respect, if you spend 9 years studying medicine, well, you’re probably gonna become a doctor. The lie we feed ourselves when we watch TV for hours everyday is that ‘it’s just entertainment, I’m just relaxing, it’s ok’. That’s a bullshit lie and we can all feel it in our bones. Spending hours watching shit TV changes how you think, how you view the world and how you view yourself. When all you do is work, then come home, eat, use social media and watch crap TV, you are becoming an expert in the fields you are learning all about. Just like after 5 years of accounting you’d feel pretty good at it, like you’re an accountant, watching real housewives for hours on end everyday, months and years on end, you end up feeling like you are like them, like they could be your next door neighbour, like they live in your world.
In the same way you shouldn’t surround yourself with drug dealers, murderers, gangsters and rapists, you probably shouldn’t surround yourself with idiots either. The trouble of this, when it comes to TV and consumerist media, is that drug dealers, murderers, gangsters and rapists, aren’t people we associate with as easily. Stupid people on the other hand… fuck me we like to watch them. And they are like a soft fudge, a piece of cake or an arm chair, you can just so easily just immerse yourself in, become comfortable with and, in the end, used to and then tolerant of their shit. You can’t do this with murderers and rapists because its not so easy to get comfortable in a prison cell and listen to their horrifying lives and stories. That’s not to say you can’t get sucked into that kind of media just as bad as shit reality TV and its equivalents, just that shit ‘harmless’ TV is more abundant and more addictive. When we are then allowing these people to become our worlds, when we essentially live in the same mental spaces as idiots, people we don’t respect, people we wouldn’t seek out and listen to, invite too our homes to have a chat with, we are conditioning ourselves for a broken and deteriorating world. What you then have to question is: why am I watching this? Is it really harmless, especially in the long term? Think about it, if you watched documentaries for 25 years straight, what would you be like, what would you know, what kind of perspective would you have of the world? You’d know about vast and far between countries, regions, their cultures, biospheres, you’d know about technology, science, politics, history. If you watched reality TV for 25 years straight, what would you know? You’d have a great back-catalogue of good episodes, arguments, fights, times he cheated, she said this, he said that. When you then ask yourself what would you prefer to have, you are asking yourself a question already touched on. Do you want the soft, easy world, or do you want the harder one? Reality TV is the soft world, reality TV is the life you live, just manipulated with everything emphasised and blown up. The real housewives are you with more makeup, more money, more attitude, less respect, less brains (at least that’s how they’re presented). Documentaries and knowledge are the hard world of truth (as close as you can get to it). They are lions eating antelope, they are countries bombing one another, they are stock markets, they are ways of live, they are philosophy, space, the atom, everything between and beyond, they are light, the light that shines on the good and bad, the pain and the joy – with indifference – and just because that is the world, that is reality.
What I’m then asking you with the question of entertainment, softness and knowledge is all about reality. What kind of reality do you want to surround yourself with? And like the first either or question I asked, you won’t take one extreme or the other, you won’t seek out 100% factual media, you won’t spend every waking hour reading texts, statistics, finding absolute truth and a network of knowledge, just like you won’t spend every waking second with real housewives. What you must ask though is where you will tip the balance. Because, ultimately, we need mindlessness, we need entertainment due to an existential hardship intrinsic to the human condition. It’s all about reality. We need the real housewives and the lie they represent because lies will also be found on the history channel and in the textbooks. They are not lies in the same respect however. The housewives aren’t trying to teach, they aren’t trying to be real, but the textbooks are. However, no textbook has every single answer in them. You can open a physics book and learn about stars and the atom, but only to a certain level before things get blurry and the scientists must admit that they just don’t know some things yet. The existential hardship in this is that no matter what, you can’t surround yourself in an ultimately true reality. This is why we can all settle for a blend of as much truth as we can get as well as a bit of lies and half-truths on top of that. That is why I can love cinema without shame, without feeling like I’m spitting shit at you when I say the real housewives are bullshit. That’s because the real housewives and Confessions Of A Dangers Mind have their differences, but in the existential big picture one cannot trump the other in terms of truth, message and lessons. We cannot use that big picture as an excuse to fall into shit media though. That is something I’m sure almost all of us must agree on. It’s ok to live in your own personal Matrix, but only if you are trying to make that Matrix your perfect world. This all turns everything I’ve said thus far right back to you – if you know something is shit, why are you watching it? It’s making you shit, right? Our bodies are what we eat in the same respect our minds are what they consume and perceive. That means that whilst I think the real housewives are bullshit, for you to watch them (which is not off the table) you should be able to see some truth, something bigger than vacuous emptiness in what they say and so. Maybe you like to watch them in the same respect someone would watch a clan of monkeys, maybe you find that entertaining in the same way you find it interesting, not completely empty.
In the end, I’m trying to make a call for personal justification in you. I’m asking you for a reason why you watch what I call shit. If you haven’t got an answer, then you’re admitting it’s shit, that it’s making you shit and that you are ultimately content with being shit. And, I mean, I consume what some would call shit. I’ve recently grown to love The UFC. But, what I love about it is the visceral truth in the idea of competition, I love the aggressive emotions in conjures in me, I love that people fight with fists, never just with words, which leaves a dispute settled, there is always ultimate truth, there is never really ambiguity, there is never doubt, but always room to prove yourself. I love that and am happy for that to represent my persona and my way of thinking. The same goes for my love of metal and movies. Some people may think they’re shit, but I can justify why I like those things and aren’t embarrassed to have them represent me. So, is there anything that you consume that you feel doesn’t represent who you are, that is a detriment to your persona and perception of self? Is it time to let that go?
Through and through, that is what Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind stands for to me, and is ultimately a cautionary tale about. We shouldn’t fall into our own traps and become something for nothing or just because. I’ll say it again: our bodies are what we eat in the same respect our minds are what they consume and perceive. Don’t eat shit. Don’t consume shit. That is the only way to survive in a world of unknowns, where we are the only ones we know for sure exists, when to our left is the only hand our right may grip for guidance.
99 Homes – The System And The People
Peter Pan – Time And Simply Getting Along
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