Engaging Culture

Culture Watch: Reality is Increasingly Being Confused with Fiction

We live in such a media-driven culture, that it’s growing more and more difficult to distinguish real life from our favorite characters in books, movies, and television programs. There’s growing evidence that younger viewers in particular have difficulty understanding the difference.

A good example is a recent psychological study by Andrew Butler where test subjects read accurate historical essays then watched popular movies about the same subjects. As you’ve probably experienced, the Hollywood version was quite different from the real event. The result? 40% of the students believed the distorted movie version more than the real historical information.

Think of the impact when that confusion is spread via social media. This may be one of the reasons a recent survey discovered 32% of Millennials believe more people were killed under the Bush administration than under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

The difficulty distinguishing reality from fiction extends to gamers as well. Nottingham Trent University researchers discovered that gamers can become so immersed in fantasy that they become unable to distinguish that from the real world.

The point is that from time to time – even with the most astute of us – we need a “reality check” to make sure our decisions and choices are based on reality. It’s not just a matter of thinking Batman really exists, it’s more about being sure we’re not basing our worldview on our favorite movie or TV character.

In his book “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis addressed the issue when it comes to marriage. He felt that too many people have a romanticized and unreal expectation of what marriage should be, largely based on romance novels, movies, and TV programs. He reminds us that we need to be careful not to be seduced by fantasy over reality. He put it this way: “Our experience is colored through and through by books and plays and the cinema, and it takes patience and skill to disentangle the things we have really learned from life for ourselves.”

“It takes patience and skill.” There’s so much we can learn from books, movies, and TV. However, the reality of marriage, success, business, spiritual issues, and so much more need to be based on lived experience, not the hero of a popular TV series.

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  1. Chris is a Greek-American student, raised in Greece, but lives in US. Recently, he posted on Facebook this story: “Client at work asked me where I was from. I told him I was Greek-American. He looks at me with shock, and says: “Greece!? The land of Hercules and Zeus?! That’s fictional, it’s all made up!” Well, I’m here in the flesh.”

  2. “Do you prefer a sweet lie or a bitter truth?” That was a question asked in a street interview on a TV channel in my country. I was shocked as I was hit by a reality I wasn’t aware of. Most of the people, especially youth, answered: “A sweet lie!”.
    A massive honest accepted self-deception!
    The subjective convenience has become more important than objective reality. Perhaps, that is the greatest idol of our age.

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