Magazine article Tikkun

The Seduction of Anais Nin

Magazine article Tikkun

The Seduction of Anais Nin

Article excerpt

The Seduction of Anais Nin Seduction: A Portrait of Anais Nin by Margot Beth Duxler, Ph.D. Edgework, 2002.

Ours is a culture of celebrity and appearance in which theoretical debates about whether reality is found or constructed are largely confined to academia. Politicians communicate in sound bites as the public refuses to demand otherwise. Trent Lott goes on Black Entertainment Television to disavow the racism he clearly expressed days earlier; George Bush simplifies the motives for waging war in Iraq before, during, and after the destruction. All of this takes place on television, which itself is both the incarnation and the reification of the inauthentic real, right in our own living rooms. In the latest wave, we watch show after show of produced reality as the genre continues to fold in on itself like a mutating virus. Our society thrives on exposure rather than revelation; our desire to bear witness to anything authentic is far outweighed by our voyeurism, which can be sated by anything false as long as that thing announces itself as real. In other words, it turns out we don't even care if the emperor is wearing a take naked suit-all we need is the illusion of having seen someone exposed. And certainly no one asks about the meaning of the act; some might even argue that the act has been pre-stripped of its meaning for us.

Whatever the illusory quest manifest in "reality" television, we as a society appear to be not all that interested in reality itself. Yet shouldn't we be? The nature of reality-and, on a personal level, authenticity-is not just an ontological question of interest to poets and philosophers, but a powerful issue at work in almost every significant aspect of contemporary American culture and daily life. When are we genuine and when are we false? How often are we conscious of the myriad ways and contexts in which we are, individually or collectively, personally or culturally, privately or politically, less than authentic? And if we are, by definition, unaware of the unconscious conflicts that may drive us to create, maintain, present, and believe (in) our inauthentic selves, does that absolve us of the responsibility, both individual and societal, to question what is true and to rekindle our appetites for the authentic? Not if we wish to thrive.

It can't be mere coincidence that reality television, on the other hand, thrives because enough of us find pleasure, or satisfaction, or relief, or fascination, in watching the aggression, hostility, humiliation, and shame of others. Our fascination with and envy of celebrities can make their upsets and failures even more gratifying. Still, whether it's the admittedly intriguing group dynamics of shows like Survivor or Big Brother, or the lengths to which individual people will go for a chance at "love," if we felt compassionately towards these people, we'd change the channel, if not turn off the set. But we're just certain enough that these folks aren't really suffering, that the "reality" is "just television," to delight in it instead. We may root for an underdog here and there, but not without mustering some real contempt for others along the way. So couple the collective schadenfreude that allows us to revel in the misfortunes of others, with the drive to project and disown our own hostility and aggression by watching it played out by others, and reality television has a niche market. We've mastered and disguised the village stoning so that it takes place in our own living rooms, and without physical violence. Shame wins the day and once again television proves to be a superior medium for keeping ourselves disconnected, safely removed to a place from which we can watch rather than participate, look rather than feel.

Unlike television, literature has always aspired to reveal the truth about our human nature and our human lives, to be authentic even if fictive. And journals, even those with literary aspirations, present themselves as inherently real. …

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