Living inside a movie

Standard guest blogger Don T. Careallthatmuch writes a ridiculous post suggesting that Pandora, the fictional planet that serves as a setting for the movie AVATAR is where people were meant to live.

Fun quote: “Isn’t this how we were meant to live, and might live again? Hunting the forest, leaping through the canopy, killing beasts, taming others, enacting meaningful rituals? It’s the same dream offered by Tolkien’s Middle-earth—to be peaceful, nature-bonded hobbits, quietly growing crops, smoking pipes, drinking ale and laughing. An alluring fantasy life to be sure. And one perhaps worth fighting for.”

Don left out “crapping in holes” but whatever. This reminds me of something I heard Spider Robinson say at the late, lamented NW Bookfest some years ago (I paraphrase from memory, of course). He said that he reads science fiction because he wants to read about societies of the future, advanced societies where he can imagine living. Fantasy readers, he assumed, were doing the same thing–which made them fools. The typical human in a pre-industrial Europe worked incredibly hard and was incredibly uncomfortable; he’d tried to live a self-sustaining farmer’s life, and it was a nightmare. Fantasy readers, he concluded, were idiots.

Never mind that many, many people do not read books because they’re daydreaming about living in the setting. Sure, I might imagine how cool it would be to fight like Aragorn, kicking monster ass and getting to be king at the end, but that doesn’t mean I’d walk through a portal marked “Middle Earth: Entrance Only.”

I think something that throws people about this is that these action movies are taking place in a wacky setting. If I read a crime novel, does that mean I want to have a knife fight with a junkie in an alley? Hell no. Do I want to drive an souped-up car across a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland? No and no again.

I enjoy the hell out of those sorts of stories, though. I may imagine myself standing alone on a bridge as the goblin warriors rush at me, or piloting a spaceship through a firefight, or confronting a vampire in it’s lair, but that’s part of enjoying an adventure story.

But to actually go there and do that? For real? Pass. And I think most sane people would agree.

At this point, let me tell you about a very good, very old friend of mine. At one point, he told me he was going to join the FBI. This was something of a surprise, because this was a guy who’d given up the chance to run his own martial arts school to pursue acting. He’d owned a bicycle repair business, repaired rental hardware for Lowe’s, produced documentaries and DVD extras, built movie sets, etc. But wear a suit and investigate people for the federal government? Where did that come from.

“The X-Files,” he said. Now, he knew it was a little ridiculous as he said it. He knew he couldn’t join the FBI to hunt aliens, but he’d enjoyed that show so damn much that he wanted to jump into it. (He cancelled his application midway through because he knew it was laughable, but still). There are scientists who were inspired by Star Trek, martial arts students who studied wu shu because of Jackie Chan, fencing students inspired by The Three Musketeers, kendo students inspired by Toshiro Mifune.

Yeah, there are people who love a story enough to try to make it part of their lives. But to give up everything and rush off to neverland? I look forward to Don’s future posts from the jungles of the Amazon. As for me, I’d consider it if it was an honest-to-god utopia and I could bring my wife and son. But probably not. I don’t hate my life that much, and I don’t want to crap in a hole.