A Real Defense Of Fiction

The parody After Ever After has got me thinking about fiction.
March 22, 2013
I'm sure that by now, many of you have seen the YouTube parody "After Ever After", where a college student gave realistic and depressing endings to several classic Disney movies.

It's gotten a lot of acclaim from many people, including some who work for Disney themselves. I don't agree with the praise for this song, though, and that's because I feel that once you take movies seriously, they cease to be fun.

Movies are all about suspension of disbelief...You go into a theater or watch a DVD or Blu-Ray to escape the problems of the real world for a while, not to watch them on a big screen with a huge sound system.

As you know from my past articles, I am a tremendous Disney fan, and the Disney Princess movies are among my favorites, especially the first two movies parodied in "After Ever After", "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty And The Beast".

I'm not naive. Obviously, there are no such things as mermaids, and it's also obvious that if someone acts abusive, they're always going to be that way and not even true love can change them. Despite that, though, "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty And The Beast" are movies that I enjoy because I do enjoy a good fantasy.

If you look at my previous articles, you know that I didn't have an easy childhood, and truthfully, despite what I said in 2008's "Life Does NOT Suck Today", my adulthood hasn't been easy, either. Movies have always served as a way for me to escape.

What do I see in Ariel that reflects my real life? The yearning to fit in with people different than I am. As someone who spent his youth in special education, and was diagnosed with Aspergers' Syndrome in the late 90s, I can tell you that ideally, I would have loved to not have the disorder and to have been able to handle what kids, both challenged and normal, gave to me. In essence, I've always wanted to be "Part Of That World"...In this case, that world is the world of those who don't have any disorders affecting their lives.

There have been times when I've done what Ariel did, and sold out what made me myself for a chance to fit in. For example, I changed my feelings on a politician I supported at one point, because I was getting tired of being attacked for supporting the guy. I said hateful things I didn't mean because I heard my co-workers and family saying them. By the time I returned to what I truly believed, no one could tell if I was telling the truth or lying.

Another example: In some of my early articles, I made snide remarks about certain aspects of 80s culture. I used the word "cheesy" in several of my early 80s articles because I was deluded by other people using the word as a compliment. I eventually realized the true definition, and it was a negative one. I changed my mind, and no longer use the word, unless I'm referring to cooking any Hamburger Helper flavor with the word "cheesy" in it.

The fantasy is that Ariel was able to get her voice and family back. I know that things don't work like that in real life, but I watch the movies to pretend.

"Besuty And The Beast" is another movie I know is a fantasy, but I did see something of myself in the main characters. Like Belle, I enjoy reading books, utilizing them as an escape. I recall borrowing a copy of "You'll Never Make Love In This Town" from the town library and reading it on my free period in 12th grade.

I made sure to hide the cover, but I was greatly enjoying reading books like that. The books I was enjoying weren't what my teachers would've wanted me to be reading. It's like Belle...She enjoyed reading in general, while her fellow townspeople wanted her to be looking for a mate.

Like the Beast, I've had anger issues in the past. With the help of a psychologist and the proper medication, I've been able to mellow out. Unfortunately, people still tend to think of me as an angry man-child. I'm not talking about co-workers or karaoke audiences...I'm talking about my family members. My aunts and uncles have this image of me as being unable to handle criticism...They're not about to storm my house and kill me, but they have semi-shunned me and my brother in the years since my Mom's death. We still speak to them, but it's the people who aren't related to us who have been helping us out more.

The fantasy comes from the fact that the Beast transforms into a man at the end, and a good one. Actually, that can sometimes happen. If one views therapy as a way to change yourself, as I do, then you can mature. On the other hand, you could end up like Chris Brown, dropping 10,000 dollars for a bottle of champagne, yet getting furious over a 10 dollar parking charge.

Disney movies are not the only things that tend to be viewed cynically. I find it very difficult to watch older movies with my brother, since he's always questioning what's going on with the films I watch. For example, the Encore channels have been airing the movie "Red Dawn" a lot recently.

It's an action movie I like, yet at the same time, it was a fantasy in the way that it presented an alternate America to what most people were experiencing in 1984. My brother thought it was unrealistic that Russians and Cubans could take over America. The Cold War was still hot at the time of the movie's release, and America was almost nuked by the Russians in 1983, action averted thanks to Russian military man Stanislav Petrov. While that was real, "Red Dawn" took the real Cold War and used it as the basis for an alternate history. I would've thought my brother would've understood the alternate history concept, being as he's a voracious reader himself.

To be fair, there have been times when I've taken movies seriously. That was a criticism hurled at my 2008 article "But Seriously", my examination of the drama in comedy. I did write seriously about movies with comedic sensibilities, but that's because, with the exception of "The Truman Show", the movies I mentioned ("48 HRS", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and the first 2 "Lethal Weapon" movies) were fantasies, yet had a realistic element to them.
For example, with "Lethal Weapon", the idea of a cop like Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), who laughs to keep from crying, has a ring of realism to me.

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It's realistic to me because late in her life, my mom became friends with a former police officer named Susan, who she met another one of her friends. Susan would always smile, she was always joking, she called everyone "dude"...You never would've thought she had mental issues. In "Lethal Weapon", Riggs flirted with killing himself, but he eventually decided against it. Susan, unfortunately, turned the gun on herself one evening and ended it all.

Yes, it is a fantasy that two cops could do the work of two dozen, but suicide is a real thing.

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" has the title character (Matthew Broderick) as a type of fantasy...Most people couldn't get away with what he does. The realism comes from the character of Cameron (Alan Ruck).

The above scene had fantasy elements, but the anger is real. If you've never expressed anger at your parents at least once, then you're not telling the truth. Parents anger kids...Kids anger parents. It's a killing cycle, but it's true to life. If your parents aren't around anymore, then brothers and sisters usually end up substituted. I've had to deal with my brother's anger on several occasions, and as I've gotten older, I'm screaming less and he's screaming more. He gets aggravated when I tell the truth about the way Mom treated me...I get annoyed when he points out flaws that are beyond my control (like the way my feet smell at the end of a work day).

Fantasy is not only found in movies, but also at karaoke. Karaoke is basically real life fantasy, giving people a chance to pretend that they're rock stars and showmen/women. Unfortunately, there are some people who tend to treat karaoke like "American Idol"...As serious business.

I've had to deal with criticism on several occasions. I'm not an idiot...I know that I run that risk every time I step up to the mic. The difference between me and the critics is this: I know I'm not the best singer in the world. I'm not there to compete...I'm not there to win prizes...I'm there to have fun. There are some people who take it too seriously, though. For example, one time I performed Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue".

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When I performed it, I did it in the voice Grant had, or at least as close as a big white guy like me could. I did it purely for fun, but I had to deal with someone who said I should've performed it my own way. Maybe I could've performed it without the accent, but I just felt like having a little fun. It isn't a competition...It's a chance to have fun.

Another time, I performed Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2", and during the instrumental parts, I went into my ad-libs and pretended to be a man who was okay with things like the Columbine attacks.

I was horrified by them in real life, but I was acting...I was playing a character, in this case, a lunatic. Unfortunately, people were offended by my references to real life events, and I was told, for the first time ever, to stop it with the ad-libs.

With several years having passed, I can understand why they were offended, but I wasn't looking to shock people on purpose...I thought it was like Alice Cooper and his guillotine. He doesn't like violence in real life, but onstage he's a wildman.

I no longer make references to graphic violence...I stick with the lines about sex. I've learned it's better to be a lover than a fighter.

This article has ventured to several different points, but in summation, entertainment can make us laugh, make us cry, thrill us, chill us...At the end of the day, though, it's all fantasy, and it shouldn't be taken as anything more than that.

As Joel, Mike and the Bots once said:

"Repeat to yourself, it's just a show: I should really just relax."

And so, my question to all of you is this: Do you view entertainment as just entertainment, or do you look at it seriously?
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