Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When The Demolition Job Happens To You

.:When The Demolition Job Happens To You:.

It's no secret that I've been a professional magician and mentalist since 2006. It's been a very amazing experience, and yes, I'm still in the thick of all that and can be booked easily enough, if you wanted to see top-notch quality entertainment. Lately, though, I've been asked several times about a certain TV show called "Demolition Job," as it went out there and exposed the secrets of mentalism on television just last Monday night.

Like religion, you mean? Oh, right.

I find it amusing and sad at the same time that they had to target mentalism on this show. Amusing, because it's not like this is the first time mentalism has been exposed: Studio 23 has had a series of magic exposure shows in the past, and a particular episode dealt with mentalism already. I took a bunch of psychology classes to get the hang of using mentalism in a performance setting once I managed to repackage what were originally academic pursuits, so even in a purely academic setting, mentalism is right there for the taking for anyone who wants to get into it.

But I find it sad, because you know what? People make a living doing this stuff, and killing the fairy doesn't really do them any favors. While defenders of this kind of programming would say that exposure is a challenge for these performers to step up, has anyone bothered asking why only magicians or mentalists are forced to step up like that? Do you tell Coke to step it up by revealing their secret formula? Do you challenge KFC to pick up the pace after divulging their 11 secret herbs and spices? Of course not. So why kill the magician's livelihood? I may not be as adversely affected as other performers will be, but I can almost hear random people talking to me about seeing this episode for at least the next six months.

Pictured: real magic.

Ultimately, what is the point of a show like "Demolition Job?" I gather that it's supposed to be like Penn and Teller's "Bullsh!t," which is mostly about debunking false beliefs and the like. Since it's a demolition job, then you might even say it's a deconstruction of myths and lies we hold true. Let's face it, though: if that was your objective in mentalism, the first thing you should have been debunking would be the seance, not psychokinesis. Out of every single part of the mentalist's arsenal, it will always be the paranormalist quackery that always, always annoys me to no end, and I'll get to why in a bit. Psychokinesis? That's entertainment fluff and a crowd-pleaser, but by no means problematic. How many people even know about psychokinesis as a phenomenon, let alone actually believe in it?

You see, when a magician or a mentalist (And I will use them almost interchangeably here.) performs, there is an implicit expectation that some deception is involved. This is a contract of sorts: everyone is in on the fact that not everything happening is as it seems, and that's a contract that should be upheld, since hey, you're entertaining people; not starting a religion.

However, things are very different when you pretend you can talk to the dead, and the person you are speaking to is hanging onto your every word. These are people who want to believe you and want to communicate to someone they love. You prey on their vulnerability for some measure of gain, and the contract of deception is completely ignored.

So why does it seem the seance went untouched? I could only hope they will end up doing an episode on the Tony Perezes and Jaime Licaucos, right? Or at least call out Nomer the Mindmaster when he pretends he can talk to Miko Sotto for Ali Sotto's benefit?

To me, I'm merely after fair play: yes, magicians and mentalists are valid targets for your so-called demolition jobs. It's just like how people go out of their way to remind people that pro wrestling is fake every chance they get. Annoying? Yes. But they're entitled to do that. Would I be happier if nobody bothered exposing magic and mentalism in this way? I'm not particularly swayed in either direction since I actually like how Penn and Teller do their exposure, but I can see more people benefit from and less people are harmed by keeping these secrets, well, secrets.

So in the interest of fair play, where are the episodes exposing Mother Teresa? The Catholic Church? How about other religions, and some of their decidedly baseless, even harmful practices? How about the preferential treatment enshrined in law (Under a constitution that supposedly separates church from state, no less!) for Muslims that allowed Freddie Aguilar to marry a minor? Failing even that, let's start with something simple: how about the mania surrounding the Black Nazarene, and the countless injuries it causes year in and year out? Any takers on that?

Okay. Religion's a bit too touchy? Let's talk governance then. How about political dynasties? Corruption and scams? Got anything to say about that? What? You're afraid of death threats, and won't do that, either?

How about dietary supplements that promise you the moon and the stars, yet always end with "No Approved Therapeutic Claims?" Remember April Boy Regino claiming he was cancer-free thanks to Sante Pure Barley, and suddenly retiring late last year from performing, due to still having cancer? You mean to tell me he willingly staked his life on that supplement, only to find out he's still actually sick? That's horrible! Expose that sh!t!

Seems legit.

Oh, what? They're your sponsors, and you can't do that to them? Fine, then.

So remind me: of all the other logical targets to go after, why were mentalists one of the first? Why did you go after them, when they have yet to cause any harm to the country, to begin with? Could it be because you can pick on them and they won't fight back? That's really it, isn't it? Why tackle the lies of a religious institution, or the government, or a paying sponsor, when you can pick apart an easy target instead? 

And this is why I just rolled my eyes when I heard that the fine art of magic was targeted. Again. Of course they'd do that. They're not going to pick on a target that could actually hurt them if it fought back. The most magicians and mentalists could do would be to say some mean things to Paolo Bediones, maybe toss a homophobic slur or two his way at worst, then after a while, they're gonna move on because they have better things to do, like try to earn a livelihood, even if "Demolition Job" made sure that was going to be just a little harder to do.

We magicians and mentalists get targeted because, believe it or not, we're too nice. And the sad part is, at no point does it occur to anyone doing "Demolition Job" that maybe, just maybe, they are killing other people's livelihood just because they can, and not because they are serving any public good. I'm not mad, but can you blame any other magicians if they do get angry because it suddenly got harder to feed their families because of this episode?

Again, we are entertainers. We are artists. We aren't trying to start a religion here. We're not out to make anyone believe we have these super-special powers only we are in possession of. We're just trying to entertain you, because that's our job. Walang basagan ng trip, pwede?

But I guess that's too much to ask for, right?

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