05 February 2008

People watching

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of being a writer, one of the allures, is watching people and wondering about them. This to me is one of the appeals of reality television. I know many of my writer friends pooh-pooh my fascination with "Big brother", but I love the show. Can watch most reality shows with interest -- "The biggest loser" for example. What I love best is watching the social interactions between the housemates/contestants, and hearing them talk about their motivations and the things that move them. This is great stuff for writers to ponder. Some of the most powerful and moving television I've experienced has been on "Big brother". Who could forget Chrissie in season three, having overheard the cruel comments by someone working behind the scenes, and how the normally feisty, articulate woman was reduced to tears? Or in season five, David's coming out speech? Terribly moving. Terribly revealing. And brave.

Some of my friends say it's an act, that they're always aware of the cameras, but I don't believe this. Some are more aware than others (or so it seems to this observer), but it's clear that at times they all forget.

I don't watch any of these shows religiously. I just don't have time. Others I've enjoyed have been "Australian idol" and "American idol", "Race around the world", "Australian princess", one of those one-(Aussie)-bloke-eliminating-lots-of-prospective-girls shows and "Survivor" -- though I haven't seen much of this.

Two weeks ago, I interrupted my children watching "America's next top model", something that I never would have turned to on my own. A bunch of anorexic-looking spoilt princesses? Nope, not my style. But within a few minutes I was hooked. And of course most of them were not like this at all -- but the cattiness of one of the contestants! I couldn't wait for her to be voted off. Of course she lived to survive another week.

Last week was the final of the show. Finally, the bitchy one got her own, and off she went. But her comments after she'd been eliminated -- something along the lines off: "The judges got it wrong. I thought the best girl would win, but I didn't." Wow, I thought, what ego. And then she went on to say, "They mistook my confidence for aggressiveness." Really? Looked like more than confidence to me. Interesting that that's how she saw it.

Finally, we were down to the last two, and that "confidence" word was stuck in my head. I liked both finalists equally, but felt one deserved to win more than the other. The judges were torn, and ended up going the other way. They didn't chose the girl who I thought would win because they said she didn't have enough presence when she walked into the room. They showed her walking in again, and I studied her and her rival to see what the difference was. The winner looked confident. She came in smiling and met the gazes of the judges. The other girl looked shy -- she walked in with her gaze down (much like the early Princess Di), not making eye contact with the judges until she'd stopped walking, and then she gave them a dazzling smile. Her lack of "presence" seemed to me to be a lack of confidence.

There's a lesson in this for writers: a lesson about backing your own story and believing in it. The bitchy evictee shows that nothing can really wound you if you just believe in yourself and your work, and our runner-up shows that if you don't believe in yourself no-one else will either. An interesting viewing experience in the end: I'm glad I went along for the ride.

1 comment:

Sherryl said...

You said, "Wow, I thought, what ego. And then she went on to say, "They mistook my confidence for aggressiveness." Really? Looked like more than confidence to me. Interesting that that's how she saw it."
This is the great challenge for us as writers, isn't it? To show the reader both sides and let them make up their own mind. The character who is tough on the outside and vulnerable inside. The character who is a big villain, but what about his weakness or soft side?
I agree with you about how people are often unaware of how they appear to others, how what they say may come out wrong or be misinterpreted (so they think) when in fact the body language is more telling, and is often what we subconsciously go on.