Bad Acting

As usual my correspondents seem incapable of taking responsibility for their own emotions. Troppo reader Don Arthur asks:

Dr Troppo, I’d like your advice on something I read in the newspaper this morning. According to Peter Hartcher subjects in a Dutch study found politicians like Tony Blair and George Bush less realistic than fictitious characters like Dracula and Superman. Should I be worried?

Mr Arthur, if you are worried by things you read in newspapers but continue to read them I can only conclude that you enjoy being worried.

Less self-absorbed readers may have googled the study Mr Hartcher refers to and noticed that it was conducted in Amsterdam with students of the Free University. No doubt you are wondering whether there is a pharmacological explanation for these findings. But while it might amuse you to think so, there are some things even a drug-addled university student might notice. For example, that the Bush family really are terrible actors and that even Béla Lugosi‘s performances are less fake.

Even the neurotically self-absorbed playwright Arthur Miller has noticed that politicians are acting. For some reason he finds this disturbing:

I can’t imagine how to prove this, but it seems to me that when one is surrounded by such a roiling mass of consciously contrived performances it gets harder and harder for a lot of people to locate reality anymore. Admittedly, we live in an age of entertainment, but is it a good thing that our political life, for one, be so profoundly governed by the modes of theatre, from tragedy to vaudeville to farce? I find myself speculating whether the relentless daily diet of crafted, acted emotions and canned ideas is not subtlely pressing our brains to not only mistake fantasy for what is real but to absorb this process into our personal sensory process.

Like many people who read too many newspapers and watch too many current affairs programs on tv, the neurotic Mr Miller worries that voters might take the bad theatre of politics seriously. The fact is, most viewers would prefer to watch a clip of Mr Abbott losing his temper than to listen to another of his appallingly scripted policy announcements. Sane people do not want to become more informed about policy, they want to be entertained.

Politics is bad entertainment because there are too many people trying to write the script and all of the actors are trying to play the character who grew up on a farm and went on to save the universe. When everything is going according to plan it’s like watching Star Wars with two badly-cast Luke Skywalkers, no Darth Vader, and Han Solo gagged and tied up in the basement. Naturally attention turns towards continuity problems.

The most important voters in any campaign are the sensible people who ignore the campaign and try to get on with their lives. To the frustration of the politically obsessed, these people spend their time worrying about how their children are doing at school, how much is left to go on their home mortgage, and whether turning the hose on door-knocking politicians is permitted under current water restrictions.

There is nothing unreasonable about people wanting to change the channel when they become bored with the show.

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Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
14 years ago

if this was dutch would this be a clog and would we be cloggers?

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
14 years ago

Quite possibly, but we’d also be too stoned even to understand your puns let alone laugh at them, Homer.

Joshua Gans
Joshua Gans(@joshua-gans)
14 years ago

Luke Skywalker? I’m reminded more of Daleks: Union Bosses, Union Bosses, Union Bosses…; Working Families, Working Families, Working Families…

Dr Troppo
Dr Troppo
14 years ago

Yes Mr Farrell, there are constant attempts to cast campaign villains. But why is that they so often refuse to read the lines they are given?

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