Monday, 12 August 2013

Where are ghosts depicted accurately?

Shadow ghostSo there I was, minding my own beeswax, walking through a shop, when I realised that the woman in front of me was talking to me! We were walking in the same direction so she had her back to me but I was sure, nevertheless, that I didn't know her. As I tuned in to what she was saying it became obvious that she thought I was her companion, another woman, who was walking directly behind me. The companion was too far behind to hear what was being said. As I peeled away from the pair, I wondered about the confused conversation between the two that was likely to follow this incident. It was like a scene from a situation comedy.

This got me thinking about the unusual portrayal of ghosts in situation comedies. Comedy often points out truths we would prefer not to discuss in polite company. And so it is with the ghosts. In most serious dramas, ghosts are depicted as spirits, even sometimes as full characters, with their own motivations, personalities and eccentric habits. But in situation comedies, ghost sightings are often portrayed as coincidences, dreams and even misperceptions, factors known to cause many real life sightings. It is obviously done for comic effect but, ironically, turns out to be a far more accurate portrayal of real ghost sightings.

Does this matter? Absolutely! Because the public perception of ghosts, and anomalous subjects in general, appears to be largely informed by fictional representations rather than real cases where there is no compelling evidence that spirits are responsible. And so, the public continues to believe the stereotypes about the paranormal rather than the reality. This means that we get endless sterile debates in the media such as 'do ghosts exist?' Such debates are pointless and uninformative since they miss the single most important question about ghosts. A debate about 'what are ghosts?' would be far more enlightening and bring up matters that most people have never heard about before.

Does it matter whether the general public has an accurate idea of what ghosts are? Absolutely! I doubt we would see the widespread use of assumption-led techniques, typical of the current ghost hunting boom, for one thing. Instead, we might have a ghost hunting boom based around evidence-led techniques. This could bring about rapid advances in our understanding of ghosts and hauntings. As long as people enter our subject with preconceived ideas based largely on fiction and cultural sterotypes it will be difficult to progress at a pace beyond a snail's.

So, in summary, what we need is for people to take comedies more seriously ...

PS: Have you ever seen a drama where a psychic makes a prediction in the opening scenes that isn't fulfilled by the closing credits or curtain fall? And how often does this situation happen in real life?

No comments:

Post a Comment