Thursday, March 23, 2006

Guess who

I was thinking the other day how ironic it is that the heart of the blogging phenomenon is all about self-disclosure, while this one is just as much about concealment. I am willing to reveal all sorts of innermost fantasies and desires here, yet I closely protect some of the most basic aspects of who I am, like my name, where I live, or where I work.All the things you would know about me if you "knew" me in the daylight world, in other words. In my bat-fantasies, the mere act of showing my naked face to someone is a giant, giant thing (sometimes an act of trust, sometimes a marker of defeat) with potentially major consequences.

A short while later, I happened to hear an episode of the NPR show To the Best of Our Knowledge devoted to the subject of "Identity Crisis." (Sadly, the DC series of that name never came up.) I'm pretty sure it was a rerun, and I could swear I wrote about this very episode here over a year ago, but what the hell, I'll bring it up again and save us all a trip to the bat-archives.

Nice interview with the media/performance artist Lynn Hershman Leeson about (among other things) creating a fictional alter ego for herself and then living in and out of that persona for years, eventually hiring actors to play the part instead. (She even sent the character to a shrink at one point.) And an interesting segment on Edward Castronova's research into online roleplaying games, too--though it was less about the obvious issues of pretending to be someone else and more about the implications when real-world economic exchange enter the picture.

I spend a significant amount of my waking hours surrounded by pretend cops, make-believe superheroes, and imaginary criminals--and I don't really see anything wrong with that. For one thing, TV, movies, and video games (or whatever they're called these days) offer the same promise of fantasy, only in a far more passive way. The same could be said for fiction and drama for centuries; I think all of these things, like our dreams, offer us access to an alternate universe (or two, or a thousand alternatives), where we can conceivably learn things of use in consensus reality. I was about to use the term "escapism" in there a sentence or two ago, but then I remembered that I don't really use my batlife to escape so much as to confront things that I'm either too scared to deal with in my everyday life or would never otherwise encounter.

As the student revolutionaries of the sixties and the surrealists before them used to say, "All power to the imagination!"

If we cannot conceive of better, more interesting worlds, then we are doomed to spend our days toiling away in the "real" one, right?

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