Why is it when you meet someone they always seem to perfectly match some stock character on a crappy television program? This comparison sticks in your head for a while… allowing you to the guileless pleasure of believing your life to be so hilarious it could be a Fox (at best) sitcom. However, then you actually get to really know this walking stereotype and they grow in dimension, slowly taking shape like one of those ‘grow your own boyfriend’ joke toys you stick in water for twenty-four hours until it bloats up like a captive whale. These people take shape; you begin to see their complexities and nuances. They become more than types; more than the archival stock footage label you mentally pressed across their forehead. You realise they are more than their television equivalent. They are real; they are layered; they are complex; contradictory; they are far less funny. Ultimately, you fail to recognize this in any wise, objective, observant way. You just begin to hate your life (and if you’re like me, you thus write a lot less).
What does this actually teach us? That television promotes a dumbed-down version of reality where laugh tracks have to prompt an emotional response? That any art of actual value promotes characters with surprising depth played by actors with an real sense of backstory and without offensive stereotypes and ridiculous catchphrases (Are you havin’ a laugh? Honestly?)? Ha. Fuck no. Anyone who watches this shit isn’t likely to pick up on much beyond the facade that skinny, attractive women love overweight dead beat men and it’s cheap and trendy to live in New York; covert sexism and Greenwich Village on a barista’s wage- the new bestseller by Candace Bushnell.
What we subconsciously pick up on is the idea that real people are two-dimensional; that there is nothing beyond my neighbour’s blue overalls and trucker cap. Do we ever give people a chance anymore? Or do we spend five minutes on them, associate them with some inane archetype and write them off: filed away as irrelevant without ever hearing about their fondest childhood memory? Of course we do. We judge people on insane things: their fingernails, their facial hair, their facebook profile picture. How do we respond? Do we make an attempt at change? Give the benefit of the doubt? Do we beg for substance over style? Ask hipsters if they are aware that the black and white checkered scarves they wear mean that they support Palestine? Ask them to point out Palestine on a map? No, we just know how to present ourselves in a manner accustomed to the archetype WE wish to be labelled as. Because we know no one is ever going to see through us. Everyone is simply too busy labelling themselves. I see a viscious cycle.