Life the Movie -or- Pursuit of Attention

Ginny, 19

I've only had this dream once.  Well, in my dream my mom and I went to a haunted attraction, where you go through and live out a scene from a horror movie. It started out being kinda lame, all we were doing was walking.  Then all of a sudden a guy started shooting at me, but he was using a real gun and the bullets left welts on my stomach.  Eventually he stopped and a guy from my class came out of nowhere and told the guy that was shooting at me to stop being mean, after that both the guy from my class and the guy that was shooting left.  My mom and I got freaked out and we tried to find the exit, but instead we came across some of our neighbor's who are sitting at a picnic table and I told them about what had happened to me. They didn't seem to pay attention so mom and I left.

Mr Hagen's Reply: Amusing Ourselves to Death -or- Life the Movie

Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death is a critique of the pathological state of mass media in modern society. Postman tells us that we live in a culture much more similar to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley than we would like to imagine. Brave New World shows us a nightmarish dystopian society which is addicted to amusement.

Using the ideas of Marshal McLuhan (The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media) and his media mantra "the medium is the message" as a point of departure, Postman came to the conclusion that media effects had induced a cultural transformation in the 20th century. In this sense, life has become a media show and tell medium, which is born out in the popularity of "reality T.V."

Phillip Roth On the Air provided a similar message; "What if the world is some kind of-of show! . . .What if we are all only talent assembled by the Great Talent Scout Above! The Great Show of Life! Starring Everybody! Suppose entertainment is the Purpose of Life!" The film The Truman Show shows us how life turns into entertainment.

The fact you choose the horror genre as your "attraction" stage, is typical of adolescent preoccupations. Much as in your dream the science fiction film Westworld features a realistic Western amusement park and stars Yul Brynner as a deadly gun-fighting robot. In your dream the amusement stage is transformed into a place of horror, with a character who also uses a gun. It occurs to me that your dream is also a variation of the popular game of paintball, in that you say; "he was using a real gun and the bullets left welts on my stomach." 

The fact that people are not paying attention to you, tells us, that this is what you were actually looking for. You wanted to tell people about your horror amusement experience. Attention seeking behaviour is explored in the book The Pursuit of Attention by Charles Dember. Dember believes that; "Conversational narcissism is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America."

Without attention, people would be narcissistically invisible, would not socially exist. Attention-seeking behaviour is central to the staging dynamics of everyday life. Conformity to stage rituals of interaction sustains civility. The egocentric are motivated by self-interest, and narcissism comes about where individuals compete for attention in the marketplace. Alienation is the narcissistic revenge of the disenfranchised who, because they have become invisible, and metaphorically have no stage and become no-body.

As Christopher Lasch understood, we live in a "Culture of Narcissism". In the dream sent to the IIDR, Pedophilia -or- Calling the RCMP, it is difficult to decide about the narcissistic motives of the dreamer, was the motive for murder (in the dream), attention seeking behaviour or was it retribution for being victimized? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in-between?

Dreams sent to the IIDR provide evidence for understanding the psychodynamics of media effects. The dreams found at the IIDR website include; Dreams, Television and the Culture Industries, Mind Control, Media Effects, Fear of Flying, Sleep Learning -or- Brave New World, Planet Hollywood, Hollywood Dream Factory among many others. Postman calls for a sane media ecology. I call for an understanding of the 'ecology of dreams'.


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.