Monday, June 13, 2005

“You aren’t really anybody in America if you’re not on TV.”

The Movie: To Die For, 1995 (Buck Henry, screenwriter, from the novel by Joyce Maynard; Gus Van Sant, dir.)
Who says it: Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone Maretto, a TV weather girl who arranges to dispose of her inconvenient husband (Matt Dillon)
The context: Suzanne explains her lifelong ambition to be a national television personality.
How to use it: It certainly explains network programming.

As a very young woman -- between the ages of, say, 15 and 21 -- I went through a phase of being fascinated with my own reflection. I don't know this for sure, but it makes sense to me that this would be common among adolescents, since people change so fast and dramatically at that age. You have to keep checking your reflection just to see what you look like that day.

While this (incredibly annoying, in retrospect even to me) phase lasted, I could not walk past a plate glass window or a well-polished car without checking my look. I could not have a conversation if a mirror was within eye range, because I'd look at myself talking in the mirror instead of at the person I was talking to.

This wasn't about wanting to check the changes in my appearance, though; at some fundamental level, I think I wasn't entirely certain that I existed at all. The mirrors reassured me, anchored me.

It's the only explanation I can think of for why so many people want to be on TV, and it illustrates a terrible loneliness and alienation. People don't pay enough attention to each other in ordinary life. Maybe it's because most of us deal with too many other people over the course of a day. If no one ever looks straight at you and acknowledges your presence, do you exist?

Without that affirmation, it's no wonder people feel the need to record and project their existence in some medium that promises a mass audience and a certain degree of permanence.

But let's get real about this, too... do you remember the name of anyone you ever saw on "Judge Judy"?


JJ said...

I am dumbfounded by this desire to be on TV at any cost. I mean, people are choosing mates on a game show? It's like the world of Chayefsky's Network is here.

But, my TV is really heavy so I'm not going to throw it out the window.

Anyway, they may find the camera reaffirming, but I see it as cold and judgemental.

Anonymous said...

Reflections are very telling on your age mind set. At 50+ I caught a reflection and thought "She looks familar" Now last week as a 60+ I said when looking at some photo's, "Who's that old woman holding Sammy's hand?" I got a good chuckle out of that comment!

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Um, by the way, cher blogiste, were you ever on TV?

AnswerGirl said...

Oh, shut UP... my purpose on those appearances was not merely to be on TV, but to win those contests of skill (the Ledger-Star Spelling Bee, Jeopardy, Ben Stein's Money). The TV part of that was just irrelevant.

And they never did air that game show pilot I shot, "Beat the Crowd." (Which is why John Fugelsang had to go do the McEnroe show instead, but that's another story.)