“I’m surrounded by morons.”
Upon hearing this phrase emanating from my VHS tape of “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” my 7-year-old mouth went rampant with it. At the grocery store. At the bank. At Lane Bryant. I unwittingly insulted people everywhere I went. My mother never fails to remind me.
This seems to have weaved into my outlook on life, turning me into the old curmudgeon-y bastard that I am. I mean, I don’t actually think everyone is moronic, especially now that Berkeley makes up my surroundings. But I’m not the most enthusiastic person when it comes to most of the human race.
But why would the antagonistic Carface, a pit bull terrier/bulldog hybrid, have such a big impact on this Cat’s life?
For the most part, I lived with my single, working mother, who was like, “ain’t nobody got time for that” when it came to monitoring my every movement. Yes, she talks like that. And since I was not a big fan of the burning sensation in my thighs that I got from physical activity, I, like a buttload of other kids of my time, was partially raised by my television. I consider it a third parent because it suckled me; or rather, I bit its edges consistently.
I kept up with, not the Kardashians, but a daily dose of shows about talking babies on Nickelodeon, awkward preteens on Disney Channel and cowardly dogs on Cartoon Network. I admired, judged and connected with these often anthropomorphized characters. They were my imaginary dawgs.
As a result, strangely large parts of my identity have been forged from fiction. I inhabited the role of the prodigy-artist when the cool thing to do at day care in elementary school was to draw stills from animes. I joined the spirit squad after repeated viewings of “Bring It On.” In middle school, I was the token gothic loner because that kind of archetype appealed to me (and all of my classmates were afraid of my eyeliner and leather boots).
Every person has a story, and it’s probably a straight-to-DVD adaptation of a story they’ve seen somewhere else. The general inundation of media makes it inevitable that we storyboard our lives into narratives to make sense of them. Fiction is part of our reality. We are made from what we make. I know, that sounded, or read, really deep. You can purchase my dinner later.
We see the depth of fictional impressions realized in the corny idealizations of romance as monogamously eternal, the aspirations to become famous just to be famous and the sexy cosplay versions of Pikachu. Why in Thor’s hammer would people do these things if they weren’t influenced by some source greater than reality? Answer: they wouldn’t.
And with the malleability of our minds as children, this media presence is all-the-more effective. We are extra susceptible to conditioning, peer pressure and whatever else the current developmental theories theorize.
Woody Allen’s character Alvy in the Oscar-winning film “Annie Hall” knows this when he psychoanalyzes his current situation in terms of his childhood. In the form of an animation, we see that his problems with the ladies are bound to his attraction to the Evil Queen over Snow White. Like me, he sympathized with the antagonist.
But why didn’t I side with the beer-guzzling, gambling, show-tune singing German shepherd/collie protagonist from “All Dogs” instead? What makes the Evil Queen from “Snow White” sexier? Psshh, I don’t have a P.h.D. in psychology! I don’t have an absolute answer to these disputable questions. But knowing my childhood self, it probably had something to do with being the other in a society that ironically promotes individualism. It was just another role to play.
These roles that we inhabit help us figure out our identities in the real world. Thus, we view reality in terms of the aesthetic sensibilities we gain from our VHS tapes. Or rather, today the Kardashians help thousands of little girls discover their destinies to become vapid, rich socialites. (They’re fictional characters, right?) In any case, I suppose the fabulous writer Oscar Wilde was onto something when he said “Life imitates art.”
Contact Caitlin at [email protected]
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