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Role playing

Humanity is one of the few species on earth which desires to play pretend. We are not content simply to eat, fornicate, and avoid predators. We need that psychological rush of play, and relish giving in to our sense of whimsy. Even aside from acting and *ahem* kinky role playing, we play many roles in our day to day life. Parents play it one way at home, another way at work, and still another way when with friends. We usually don't go up to our boss and slap them on the ass and say "hey, how 'bout them Giants?," or volunteer information about our steamy romantic hook up the night before. Our modern society is saturated with fantasy images, from photo-shopped underwear ads, to commercials filmed with fake food, to TV sitcoms with actors who play the street tough guy, or doctor, or lawyer, and who subsequently become identified to the public with the roles that they play. In a sense, these actors are conforming, not to the reality of what a doctor, lawyer, or street tough guy actually is, but to what the audience's (and director/producer's) expectations of what they should be. For many people, who spend almost as much time watching tv as they do spending time with friends (sad, but true) these images often become the reality. There is now a sort of backwards influence, in the sense that initially, reality inspired film. Now, film inspires reality. Everyday people are now burdened with the chore of living up to the inattainable fantasy of airbrushed skin and perfect teeth, and conform to expectations of what an X should be, according to the models presented by the latest movie or spread in Maxim. Over time, Actors become so identified with their roles, that people on the streets call out to them by their character's names (the Nurse Betty effect.) It becomes tempting for actors to fall into the trap of "becoming the mask," and actually take on aspects of their character's personality either because it is expected, or because people prefer the fantasy of their character to the reality of who the actor really is.  The phenomenon of societal projections of expectation onto others even spawned a TV series called To Tell the Truth, in which a real person was flanked by two actors pretending to be them, and contestants had to guess who the real guest was.

As a former adult film star, and someone who role played for a living for a long time as a dominatrix, I am very familiar with these effects. While I always felt that each role that I played was a facet of myself, and drew from real emotion for authenticity, the reality is that these roles were merely fragmentary and highly fetishized. I channelled my inner Marylin, my inner Cruella Deville, my innter Queen bitch and my inner cheap floozy to the point where people who knew me casually bought into the lie, and treated me accordingly. This became a game of manipulation, so that I discovered with smugness how much my Marylin, freshly done with professional make-up, could get away with, and how much my Cruella struck fear, loathing, and yet sexual ecstacy into the hearts of my willing victims. I marvelled upon the dramatic differences in the ways in which I was treated depending upon my costume and my role. I was a bimbo, a heroin addict, a plain Jane, a goth goddess, and a teenage nymphomaniac for fun (and don't forget money!) but who was I really, once the cameras were off, the lights were put away and the dungeon carpets were being vacuumed? Did I play the charade with people who knew me casually for personal gain? Did it get to the point where I had Marvel superhero syndrome, in which I really was two distinct personalities in one person? And does it have to go the way of the Stanford Prison Experiments to know that obsession with a fantasy figure has gone too far? The burgeoning film industry of the last century brought with it a new age phenomenon -- the cult of the personality. The dawn of the 21st century birthed a climate into which every Tom Dick and Harry (or in the case of xxx cinema, Hairy Tom's Dick) has their 15 minutes, and some people are famous inadvertently, without wanting to be (a horrible fate to wish upon anyone.) What implications does this cult phenomenon have for what it means to be a person, a unique individual, in this harshly lit, unscripted world?

I'm not a doctor, but I play one on tv...

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