By Vaagisha Das:
Actually studying to earn a law degree seems like such a drag. Wouldn’t life be easier if one could just skip to the glamourous, high paying job part of the entire rigmarole? If you think that this would be entirely impossible outside the plot of Suits, you’re mistaken- one man did exactly that. He decided to cut out the middleman altogether, learning legal jargon from Boston Legal and his own encounters with the law to such an extent that he was able to pose as a successful lawyer for almost five years before getting caught. Whoever said watching TV wasn’t productive?
Popular culture can impact our lives in wonderful, enriching ways- so it’s a pity that most often, it does not. For every Shawshank Redemption, there’s always a Twilight. However, the fact remains that what we see and read regularly on various forms of media plays a huge role in shaping who we are as human beings, from incorporating words like ‘selfie’ into our language to absolutely needing the new Game of Thrones T-shirt. The most elevated entertainment media can influence our views on just about everything. It can, apparently, even set murderers free- experts believe that the ‘CSI Effect‘ causes jurors to wrongfully acquit murderers in light of ‘not enough’ scientific evidence. In short, if we cannot construct a 3D hologram of the accused’s face, made from a single skin cell found under the bed, then he is not guilty.
The case of art imitating life and then life imitating the very same art goes one step further when ardent fans seek to imitate their on screen idols. Taking their cue from the Hrithik Roshan- starrer Dhoom 2, a gang of six tried to pull off a gold heist in just 5 minutes, using the cunning tactics of the hero. They took care to adhere to every single precaution; even disposing off their mobile phones in the gutter after the job was done. But since movie tactics are best left onscreen, they did it in 15 minutes instead- AND they got caught. This is just one of the many cases of hero worship gone wrong- and we’re not even talking about the 13 year old boy who tried to become Edward Cullen. The sparkly vampire wannabe allegedly “bit” 11 of his classmates in a bid to taste their blood.
Many of us, especially children might be too star struck to know the difference between reel life and real life. Hence, to them, following in the swashbuckling hero’s footsteps to get similar rewards seems like a natural consequence, as assumed by a 16 year old boy who killed his classmate in lieu of unrequited love, a la ‘Raanjhanaa’. He pledged that ‘if he couldn’t get the girl, no one else would’, proving that stunts such as these never work outside the make-believe world of cinema.
These fans overlook the obvious – that these movies are well crafted illusions in order to show the audience a good time, and just because someone with an unlimited budget pulled off an impossible heist and escaped on roller blades, doesn’t mean that it can be duplicated in real life. In the words of the TV warnings, do not try this at home.
Yet there are two sides to every story- what about when hero worship yields positive results? I remember hours spent pretending to be Rogue or Jean Grey, thinking that if these superheroes could save the world, I could make a difference too! Disney princesses like Jasmine and Tiana make people of colour realise that they are not ‘other’ or ‘different’, and give them someone relatable to look up to. Representation is important- if a person can see it, then they can be it. This can further bring about social changes by empowering people like Lakshmi, a child bride from Jodhpur, who was inspired to annul her marriage by watching Balika Vadhu. In Nepal, a National television programme called ‘Sajha Sawal‘ gives adolescent girls the opportunity to ask tough questions of public officials alongside men and older women in their community, creating visible role models engaged in political discussion.
Since actors exert such an influence over the masses, an example being Amitabh Bachchan urging people to get polio shots, it may be said that they have a social responsibility towards their adoring public. But is in no way mandatory for them to do so- they are artists, and they’re only doing their jobs. The ultimate responsibility lies with the audience to know that it is all part of the act. Maybe actors could tone down the theatrics, but till then, flying should be left to Superman.