Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Contribution To Filipino Freethinkers

.:A Contribution To Filipino Freethinkers:.

Now, whilst there’s a lot of hoopla going on about the RH Bill that the fine folk at Filipino Freethinkers are covering like mad, and whilst I’m certainly not an atheist by any means, I do feel for them.

On the other hand, with all the brilliant commentary from their end about the issue already, I figured that it was better for me to contribute to their fine website by writing about a topic dear to my heart : mentalism.

I’ve been a professional mentalist for going on five years already. Through it all, I’ve maintained kayfabe, but never hesitated to drop character if it was going to cause me any crisis of conscience. As a performer, there is, by definition of being a magician (Sorry, fellow mentalists. You still count.), an implicit contract between audience and performer that you’re going to deceive them, but you’re going to entertain them through it. This is the tie that binds: the contract that allows people to enjoy the performance of magic without them thinking too hard how it was done afterwards.

When you drop that conceit and pick up that of passing yourself off as the real thing, it begins to tread on questionable ethical grounds. This is particularly highlighted when you use your magic tricks to fool people into thinking you could tell them how to live their lives, sleep with them, or talk to dead spirits. Given my background, and given the fact that I’m all after elevating the respect for the art form, it becomes very objectionable for me when a show like Mind Master gets away with manipulating people who are grieving for a lost loved one.

I think my post on FF covers all my objections to the whole thing, albeit in a sarcastic manner. I can totally understand when people think that perhaps question the motive of the takedown, but anyone who has known me long enough knows that it isn’t just about the person, but about the ethical issues he now pushes mentalism into. As a performer sharing the same designation as he, I do not want to be misrepresented as that, and would like to set the record straight.

Now, without exposing any secrets, I will explicitly tell you: we are not mediums. We can’t talk to the dead. That isn’t part of our job description at all. On top of that, not all of us are slimy, manipulative douchebags. We are generally very honest about our dishonesty. Despite what you may see or hear from my contemporary, he is a woeful minority in what he does.

Is it more exciting to pretend we can talk to dead people and predict the future accurately? Of course. I’d do the same if it didn’t hurt anybody. But see, the minute Ali Sotto started crying on TV, this whole performance art crossed over from mere entertainment to outright exploitation, and I cannot abide by that. Magicians are pre-occupied with the ills of exposure, and to this day, they are railing against Bearwin Meily. That’s fine, but I also hope they aren’t so blind as to just acceptor even encourage the unethical use of the skills a fellow magician has learned from this industry. Otherwise, we just become selective enforcers of ethical practices, all without looking at the bigger picture if we tolerated this practice.

This is why it is my fervent request to GMA-7 and the producers of this show to simply put a disclaimer at the start of each episode. Just make it clear you are not declaring these feats to be legitimate solely by virtue of airing it. Is it vestigial? Yes. But it makes all the difference in the world for the network to acknowledge publicly that it will not encourage this abhorrent practice.

I don’t think it’s such a big thing to ask, is it?

3 comments:

skysenshi said...

One of my former students is very active at the Filipino Freethinkers...I'm not an atheist, too, but I'm with them on this issue.

number cruncher said...

I do share in your fervent hope for any network to disclose that the forthcoming act is just that, an act. But as you may have noticed, free TV regularly features stories of the paranormal, passing them off as science, generally removing the responsibility of critical thinking from the viewing public.

Of course, who knows? This may be a start. Time was ABS-CBN would be defensive of sister companies; now at least in ANC, they'd disclose that ANC is a sister company of the company they're featuring.

Marcelle said...

@skysenshi: Well, it's not hard to be on their side when you realize that the status quo wouldn't even change for the people against the RH Bill...

@number cruncher: I actually think that a disclaimer wouldn't be so hard to get out of this show - if it would last longer than two months, that is.

But, seeing as how the hype for the show is next to nil nowadays, maybe it's just too insignificant by now to bother, even just for the principle of it.