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Derren Brown and magical narrative - The Ex-Communicator

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October 28th, 2012

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09:40 am - Derren Brown and magical narrative
My daughter is a big fan of Derren Brown and she was telling me about his new show Apocalypse. We were saying how his explanations of 'how he does it' are always fake, and the real trick is something else going on while your attention is caught up in his elaborate psychological explanation. And also how he makes use of the narratives which already exist in our society to control his subjects. One of my daughter's closest friends was brought up on stage at a Derren Brown show, and analysing her experience afterwards made it clear how he uses the narrative of 'being on stage with Derren Brown' for example (and other common cultural narratives). By the way this is absolutely not a criticism or a debunking, I think it's brilliant stuff. There are layers within layers, and the first revelation is always a fake one. Not a problem, and I think he's a lovely man, who deserves his success.

A friend said she thought government was like that - there is one bit of business going on in the public view, which corresponds to culturally accepted narrative of 'what government does' and then another thing going on which is government actually being effective and producing results while our attention is on the showmanship. She thought the current government were only doing the 'government narrative', like a magician who does the hand-waving and distraction, but who isn't actually working meanwhile to make the trick happen.

And then I was comparing what happened to the Lib Dems in 2010 - and we saw a lot of this on livejournal - to a kind of hypnosis. They were swept up by a powerful narrative, and it ate them and destroyed them. But I don't feel they are blameless, because they were psychologically ready to be tricked. They were kind of asking for it.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
In general, I'm a big fan of Brown's work, but I much prefer his earlier series or his more standard "variety" live shows to the "Events" of recent years. In particular, I was offended and disturbed by shows like the "remote control" story, or the "assassin", etc. I think they cross a line.

I've read Tricks of the Mind, and it's good stuff.
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
I haven't really seen any of them, so I am going on what my daughter said. But in my opinion the people involved are not really 'fooled' or hypnotised into believing what they are experiencing is real.

Instead they are immersed, as you would be in a gripping book, and willingly suspending their disbelief. They have consented to go along with it as if it is real. That can be quite emotionally intense - when I am engrossed in a film or book I can be frightened or sad or whatever, but I think it is always with some element of control and distance.

That's partly what I mean about showmanship and using the narrative of being part of a Derren Brown show.

So, I don't think it is as damaging or extreme as it might seem. However there might be other elements which are offensive, I'm only talking about the pretense that someone is totally 'brainwashed' into thinking the show is real.

Edited at 2012-10-28 04:42 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
With respect to the governmental narrative, I've complained about that in the past. Specific examples include things like the sword "bans", that have been implemented in different ways in England and Scotland. In both cases, existing legislation was entirely sufficient to cover the high-profile cases, and there were no useful records kept by any police force to do an analysis on how laws could be improved. So instead, an arbitrary, unnecessary law was brought in in order to be seen to do something, rather than to actually do something.

I imagine that happens a lot.

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