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I Didn't Know Movies Weren't Real Until Just Now

Okay, okay, before you start questioning my sanity, let me start by saying that the title of this post is absolutely a hyperbole. I'm pretty sure I haven't actually believed that a movie I saw was real since I was about six...or maybe sixteen...regardless, it's been a while.

If there's one thing I've learned in my last couple of years studying film, it's that movies, no matter how fantastical or realistic, are a reflection. They attempt to depict real situations, characters, and emotions, but at the end of the day, they are about as real as the face you see in a mirror. A reflection can look just like you, but, at the end of the day, it disappears as soon as you walk away.

So, with this in mind, why have I (and so many others like me) used movies as a guide for who I want to be, what decisions I should make, what my goals should be, and, ultimately, what my life should look like? The truth is, I believed in the illusion.

I'm always going to believe in movies. They're a part of who I am. They're a part of how I learn about the world. They're a part of how I escape from it. That doesn't mean, though, that believing in them wholeheartedly is healthy. In truth, it's not. How could a person ever get through life when their entire belief system disappears when that person turns off the projector, TV, laptop, etc.?

This is an idea I'm wrestling with. To tell you the truth, realizing that the thing I'm so passionate about, the thing I rely on, the thing my career depends on, isn't really real is incredibly frightening. In a way, though, it's also incredibly comforting. The events in my life and in the world around me aren't confined to what exists in movies, and that's incredibly freeing. There are, in fact, endless possibilities to what can happen, and, while that means that bad things could happen, it also means that there is a whole world of good that can, too.

As I come to terms with all this, I thought I'd share a few of the lessons I've learned about how unrealistic movies actually are:

1. People aren't conventional
This idea really goes back through all storytelling, but it applies to movies now more than ever before. You don't fit into a label, right? You're so much more than a jock, a clown, an angsty teen, a mother, a father, a business person, a precocious kid, or anything else someone's called you over the years. You have layers. You have depth. You have experiences that have made up who you are throughout your life. What happens in your day impacts how you treat people, what decisions you make, and how you view the world around you. The same goes for literally everybody else. It's impossible to judge someone based on a character they're similar to or a label that fits them. Unless you can get inside their mind and find out every detail of their unique personality and experience, it's impossible to really judge them fairly. Remember that.

2. Success doesn't happen in 90 minutes
This is another statement that seems like it should be followed by a loud "duh", but here's what I really mean. When you watch a movie, and I mean any movie, you get the highlights.You miss the character's pasts, their mishaps, the failed communication they go through with the others around them. You may see one failed attempt, maybe even two or three, but those are included in the character's story to prove a point to the audience. Sure, the character failed. We all fail. What the movies don't tell you, though, is how much we fail, and how many ways that failure can manifest itself. Let's face it, we all don't have our life together all the time. There's always something we're trying to fix. Life is about bettering ourselves, not failing once and getting everything we've ever wanted. If life were really like that, what would the point be?

3. A movie is just one perspective
Think about this. A film is a creation. It starts in one person's imagination and flows through a bunch of other imaginations before it gets finished completely. Here's the deal, though: a movie is made by just a few people. It's made up of only a few experiences, which means that while some of it may relate to your life, not all of it does, and that's okay. Your life is really only shaped by your experiences, and that's why it's authentic. Don't worry if you don't get what's going on in the movie. It just means that you have a different story.


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