Tuesday, April 13, 2010

YOU Try To Define Reality...

A lot of shows these days are looking at the concept of reality and toying with the notion that the world that we currently inhabit is just one "plane," if you will of alternate universes. LOST is doing it with the seemingly parallel "sideways world," in which only some characters have the sense that there is-- or was-- something greater out there. Supernatural has done it, looking at not only heaven and hell but also various dream worlds in which the Winchester boys still had a partial family and semi-normal lives, and in one notable case were simple corporate drones. But those are shows that deal in the surreal and somewhat sci-fi anyway, so one might expect it a bit more from them than say...Diablo Cody and Showtime's United States of Tara. But last night, the show that has been thinking outside the typical comedy box ever since its premiere last year became a follower and joined the debate. But true to pay cable form, it did it in a completely unique way.

Tara (Toni Collette)'s newest alter, a Tab-drinking, bellbottom-wearing, New York-accented therapist named Shoshanna, appeared just briefly, as John Corbett walked in on her in a "session." But it was enough to know that it will soon enough all come to blows because Tara is convinced she is getting the therapy she needs from Shoshanna, even though in her husband's reality, Shoshanna is not real.

That in itself is the interesting debate. Shoshanna is a real person (on the show). She actually is a New York therapist who treated Max and Tara's neighbors years prior. She even wrote a self-help book that Tara read and that inspired such a breakthrough she actually started having childhood memories for the first time since she was the age in the memories. But is she actually in Tara's life as an actual, interactive relationship? No. But does that mean she's not real? I don't think so.


Tara is undoubtedly creating a version of Shoshanna in her own mind, but she is basing that person on the little she knows from what she has read. She is probably combining what she considers the best words from the woman with some projections of what she wants-- or needs-- her to be in her life at this moment. After all, Tara is hitting yet another rough patch in her life and her marriage: after thinking she was in the clear with her multiple personalities, she learned she was actually still losing time, and her alters were growing even more brazen and unruly without her, or anyone around her, realizing it. Tara believes Shoshanna is helping her, and isn't believing therapy is working more than half the battle anyway-- regardless of how "unconventional" the therapy may be??

With Supernatural, the argument has always been that any "alterna-worlds," such as the one in "Dream A Little Dream," are not real and therefore are not worth the boys staying in. Even if they think they're happier there. Thus far on that series it's been black or white. With LOST...well, it still sort of remains to be seen with the series coming to an end on May 23. But life isn't black and white the way television-- even otherwise "smart" television-- so often wants you to believe. It's easier for writers, producers, and a network to package a story neatly with one specific message. But the real fun is in the mess that comes when you play in the gray area. Only then does a true discussion get stirred because the audience will inevitably get different things from the program and the so-called message based on their own personal baggage with which they come into viewing. United States of Tara is doing that right now by having their husband-wife duo on opposite sides of a very philosophical (but not any less relevant because of it!) issue.

And this in itself raises another interesting question: if Tara has been in and out for so many years, spending perhaps just as much time in the world as each of her alters, is Tara even her "real" personality? Or could one say that Tara is just the dominant alter? If and when the show gets to the root of the traumatic event that caused Tara's multiple personalities, I personally think it would be phenomenal if we learned that underneath it all was someone completely different than anything we've seen thus far. Shoshanna (in her book) did say that such events often cause people to tuck away little parts of themselves as a way of protection. What if Tara just tucked away everything and adopted mannerisms, traits, and even the language of others she could help her better cope? Sure it would mean that all of the relationships in Tara's life currently would be altered (no pun intended) drastically, but it wouldn't mean they were lies. And it would set up an amazeballs next season unlike anything television has ever seen-- both from a story perspective and a psychological one.

Diablo, if this crosses your path and you need an assistant who has personal experience not only as a writer or in production but also with a very similar projection coping mechanism-- or even just one who is good with kids and pets and will be willing to change your unborn child's diapers-- I'm available for work!

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