Thinking more about the issues that arise from the questionable promotion of the film “Anonymous”, I am struck by the complexity of the social, cultural, ethical and psychological relationship between reality and fantasy. Every society evolves a highly elaborate code dictating when and where everything should lie along this dialectic.
When we read a novel or watch a film, we happily and collectively indulge in a game of “what-if”. In a make-believe world many rules of propriety are suspended. We understand that well-wrought fiction will give us an enormous emotional payoff — a payoff we will pay good money to experience. In such experiences there is generally no confusion about what is reality and what is fantasy. For example, when we watch “Star Wars”, we understand that we are not actually watching an entire planet full of people getting blown up.
In fact, our rules dictating that fantasy experiences do not mix with reality experiences are very strict. For example, for many people in the U.S. it is perfectly ok to go into a restaurant and eat a serving of rabbit or cow. Yet if a real rabbit or cow were deliberately slaughtered to create a scene in a fiction movie, many of the same people would likely boycott the film for ethical reasons. On the other hand, it was generally considered OK for Michael Moore to portray the actual slaughter of rabbits in his film “Roger and Me” — because that was a documentary.
That’s just one example of many. I suspect we can follow the convoluted dance between our perceptions of “reality” and “fantasy” to illuminate all sorts of things just under the cultural surface.