Perfect Illusions

In which the lies of our daily lives are presented and discussed.

Til den danske Pretty Little Liars Skrivekonkurrence, med valgmulighed nr. 3: "Skriv en tekst, der er bygget op omkring en løgn."


2. Perfect Illusions | Short version

We live in a world where essentially everyone are liars. We go through our days lying, we listen to others telling lies to our faces, we even go as far as to idolize liars. The biggest liars are perhaps exactly the ones we idolize the most: celebrities. They live most of their lives based on lies, to put on a certain façade for the public eye. They live in the illusions of perfection, putting ideas in our heads of perfect lives and appearances - and how much this should all matter to a person, in order for them to feel true happiness. They represent what we should all strive to be. But is that life even something to be desired?

Celebrities are defined by what the public, and specifically the media, thinks of them. It really doesn’t matter, whether the ‘facts’ we know about them are actually real. Historian Daniel Boorstin defined modern fame thirty years ago in his book, The Image, like so: “The hero was distinguished by his achievement, the celebrity by his image. The celebrity is a person well known for his well-knownness. We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so realistic that we can live in them.” However, because of the importance of a celebrity’s image, the celebrities as individuals fade into oblivion, and nobody really cares about the people behind the public facades. The 1930s screen star Myrna Loy once said: “I daren't take any chances with Myrna Loy, for she isn't my property… I couldn't even go to the corner drugstore without looking 'right,' you see. Not because of personal vanity, but because the studio has spent millions of dollars on the personality known as Myrna Loy.” Consequently, there is a larger prize to pay for being a celebrity today, since they are not only adored but also scorned.  

Chris Hedges - who is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and the author of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle - believes that what really matters in our lives such as wars, global warming etc., doesn’t take up enough space in our minds, because of all the irrelevant topics we would rather fill our minds with. In his own words, “We are enraptured by the revels of a dying civilization.” He claims that the worshipping of celebrities takes up so much of our time because we want to see ourselves reflected in them, we want to become like them, to some degree. “We are waiting for our cue to walk onstage and be admired and envied, to become known and celebrated. Nothing else in life counts.”

We want our lives to resemble the lives of celebrities, with wealth, power and possibly fame, even though most of our lives never will. Just like the celebrities of the world, we too strive to build a specific image on social media sites, so we can control how people see us, at least to a certain degree. We try to capture people’s attention, because, as Hedges says, we live in a world where not to be seen, in some sense, is to not exist. Therefore, “The route to happiness is bound up in how skillfully we present ourselves to the world.” We are promised an aggrandisement if we do specific things as we go through our daily routines. As Hedges says, “We consume these countless lies daily.”

And when the lies and promises don’t pan out for us, we are filled with immense frustration and self-doubt. Why can’t we do what others have succeeded in doing? “The worse things get, the more we beg for fantasy. We ingest these lies until our faith and our money run out. And when we fall into despair we medicate ourselves, as if the happiness we have failed to find in the hollow game is our deficiency. And, of course, we are told it is.” But, as Hedges points out, the poor can dine out only so long on illusions and afterwards, they will either be left with a feeling of outrage or a ferocious despair and diffidence - if not all of it. But surely not everyone can be such oblivious ignoramuses to the points presented by Chris Hedges, right? No, he doesn’t believe that is the case. Nevertheless, he does believe that our society has a way of dealing with the people who sees the society for what it really is. “Those who question, those who doubt, those who are critical, those who are able to confront reality, along with those who grasp the hollowness and danger of celebrity culture, are condemned for their pessimism or intellectualism,” he claims. In which he does make a good point. After all, why should we listen to the vituperative remarks of the naysayers of the world, when we could simply shut our eyes and ears, and continue to live in the illusion of true happiness until the day we die - when we are finally released from the perpetual and slightly fatuous desideratum of wealth, power and admiration?

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