If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Friday 31 August 2012
Read gnomica 1-100 here!
Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.
Woody Allen (1 Dec 1935 – )
That sure sounds like Woody Allen!
I confess: I’ve always enjoyed his movies and his at times quirky take on things. And the statement above – a kind of paraprosdokian – does, as many of his quips do – get at something essential about the way life is lived in the present day and age.
It’s unclear from the observation just what kind of “bad television” he alludes to here, but I don’t think it’s too difficult a matter to draw from one’s own likes and dislike on TV to fill in whatever suits. Certainly your age and of course your experiences will put their own tendentious spins on your selections generally as well as specifically.
Shall we consider romantic/amatory television? You could pick from treacly to hard – from, for example, something tediously pedestrian on LIFETIME to something exceptional on LIFETIME. Sports programs? News?
Indeed, it brings to my mind the question of why we in fact watch certain programs but not others, why some are sufficiently popular with certain demographics. Is it because they are informative, amusing, instructional? because they fill in empty hours during the day or night, because they somehow validate the kinds of lives we are living (in my view not very likely)? because they hold before us a technicolor fantasy of the kinds of lives we would like to be living (in my view much more likely)? Why indeed?
The very notion (that life imitates art [= television]) on which Allen is riffing is itself a kind of spin on an essay Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote back in 1889, ‘The Decay of Lying’ in which he advances the concept that nature [= ?life] imitates art. In the case of television, that should suggest that life – as Allen puts it – imitates television, and especially bad television.
Of course, the real paraprosdokian resides in the opening half (“Life doesn’t imitate art …”), for on no rational view of reality could anyone (or, in all fairness, at least not I!) convincingly argue that life imitates any kind of art – after all, which comes first: life or art? Before there is art there must surely be life to create the art. In short, Allen’s statement is a logical hysteron proteron that just won’t hunt!
That’s how I see it, and it all amuses me vastly.