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TV night: realer photography
Sometimes my friends and I watch some brutal murders and heart-desolating tragedies together, by way of hanging out. This would be super weird, except that these things are ‘not real’, and are instead comprised of a variety of celebrated actors lying still with fake blood on their faces.
And there is definitely a sense in which Iain Glen pretending to be dead is a vastly less terrible sight than the actual battle-slain corpse of a soldier. But watching this I feel like there is another sense in which this is more real than a video of a corpse would be.
That video would be made by capturing the light bouncing off one person’s body for a matter of minutes. Whereas a universally recognizable fictional situation is made by light bouncing off hundreds of millions of real slain bodies, and into the horrified eyes of countless observers, grieving and gaping and processing together for thousands of years, until the stories they tell are over and over again filled with the composite-image of that horror. Like a five thousand year exposure seared into the film of the global psyche, and printed out in the myriad ‘fictions’ of movies and stories and metaphors and examples. Images of the aftermath of battle make their way to you not from the coincidental virgin imaginations of writers, but because there have been so, so many real battles.
To think that it isn’t real because the medium of this image is Iain Glen with face paint seems a bit like thinking that the photograph of a corpse is not real, because it is made of ink and paper. They are both images of something real, captured and conveyed to you by physical processes that preserve something of their form, and tell you that there was this real thing. It’s just in one case the process is a physical camera bringing you the image of one death, and in the other it is tens of thousands of generations of minds in culture together bringing you the image of hundreds of millions of deaths. Admittedly the former is more photorealistic, but the latter production process seems to give one more that is real to contend with.