It seemed rather obvious when I randomly considered the notion the other day: Everything I like — that is, passionately like and spend my most time with — is magical and has magic as a basic, core element. By magical, I mean convincing us, the marks, even if for a moment, that something we know isn’t real, is real. And this applies across the three areas I’m thinking of, and one is rather obvious.
Magic. Of course magic is magical. But I love magic.
No, not the swindlers and the deceivers and the hucksters and the thieves, and the nefarious types. No, not the Chriss Angels or the David Blaines of the world who aren’t doing anything I would consider magic.
But magic. That “awe factor.” That, how-did-they-do-that factor? That child wonderment look activated. There’s so much performance and showmanship wrapped around the fun sleight of hand, illusions and diversions that I find impressive as well. And there’s no magic act I find more impressive or awe-inspiring for what they’ve accomplished than Penn & Teller, who have been doing their act for nearly 50 years. The amount of projects, specials, appearances, shows, and so on that they’ve participated in and created over the years, is incredible. And for good reason! I want to do an entire post on them one day, so I’ll hold back the gushing.
The point, though, is that magic is something I’ve loved for as long as I can remember because it creates that astonishment factor when done right. Without pretension, without trying to pass yourself off as an honest-to-god psychic, without pretending your hurting yourself, and so on. That’s also why I love Penn & Teller. Absolute radical anarchist-type magicians.
Horror movies are magic, in a way.
One of the reasons I love horror movies so much is that we know it’s a movie! Yes, 1999’s The Blair Witch Project made cuckoo money at the box office after (seemingly successfully) trying to convince people that it was something of a snuff film, i.e., real, and sure, plenty of horror films tout themselves as being based on a “true story,” but they’re movies! To use that nasty word, “fake.” And yet. Despite knowing you’re watching something that you know to not be real, the best horror movies still make you believe, if even for a moment or even the duration of the film, that what is happening is real enough to scare the bejesus out of you.
There’s a certain magical element to being able to setting up good, quality horror that lingers on your skin long after the “fake” movie is over. I admire that a great deal because the screenwriters, directors, actors and everyone else involved are working uphill: The marks, just like the marks for magic, know it’s fake! But you have to do a good enough job presenting the horror to convince them otherwise to draw out the scare the same way the magician draws out the wonderment. I think it’s playing on that same spot within us, but from polar opposite directions.
Professional wrestling is magical.
Pro wrestling is also that nasty word, “fake,” in that the action, like a horror movie, has scripted outcomes and scripted speeches, although the action itself is quite real. In other words, it’s like watching stunt work without the wires and the crash pads, and there’s always a risk of getting seriously or even fatally hurt. But there’s magic in that because you have two people fighting in the ring whose number one job in real life is to ensure the other person doesn’t get hurt, but from a performance standpoint, to make it seem like they’re really trying to hurt the other person! What a balance to strike. To convince the marks that you’re really hurting the other guy, but keeping him (in real life) safe as possible.
And again, we, as marks, know it’s not real. But we get invested in the stories and the characters and the outcomes as if it were when it’s done right. There’s magic in that.
Books, of course, are magical transportation vehicles!
Aside from actual magic acts, books are the most obvious example of all. Books are fiction. Books are a compilation of dried ink alphabet soup letters rearranged into a story. But we buy into them! We believe in the characters and the story through to the end. The best magical example is Harry Potter because of its world-building of an actual magical world, but fictional books in general are a magical transportation into other worlds, even without that expansive world-building from HP.
You see all these throughlines here? These all play to the marks to convince the marks that what they are seeing (or reading!), despite all the rational parts of their brain that tell them otherwise, is real and it’s magical or scary or cool or whatever emotion they’re trying to evoke in that moment.
I like magic, whatever form it comes alive in. I like opening that child wonderment inside of me. The day I ever find magic, horror movies or pro wrestling not cool anymore or scoff at such things, is the day you can fit me for a casket. That’s not to say that people who don’t enjoy those things are conversely uncool or anything, but I do think there’s an element where they don’t want to think of themselves as marks, so they don’t let themselves buy in or suspend their disbelief, as it were. That’s their loss, in my opinion.
What do you think?
When I became attracted to poetry in my early teens, and began to read poetry independently, it was the magical property of the best poems that enthralled me. I wanted to see if I could produce the same sort of magic, and thus became a poet. Some of the poems I wrote in my teens were later published by literary journals, so I like to think my pen was a bit of a magic wand at times. My early favorite “magicians” included William Blake, Louise Bogan, Robert Burns, e. e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, A. E. Housman and Alfred Tennyson.
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