What’s real, anyway?

The degree to which imaginary reality blends with everyday experience amazes me. Attention to this boxy building on the Danforth yesterday got me thinking.

Max the Mutt is apparently a successful business in its own right, pumping out graduates who will work as animators, graphic novelists and illustrators. Real jobs. Good pay.

Fiction, fantasy and artifice are powerful, fundamental engines of our economy. We depend on them. They put food on a lot of tables.

Cartoons and ads entertain and seduce us. Movies are big, and theatre and concerts employ all kinds of people, doing all kinds of things. Writers, actors, composers, musicians, producers, technicians, promoters.

I know skilled carpenters and electricians who draw good incomes building and lighting sets. Painters, too … house painters, sign painters, and the artsy kind. Even gigsters tap in as extras.

Think of the support industries that depend on content production. Caterers, equipment and vehicle renters, security personnel, hair and makeup stylists, props suppliers, location scouts. I even know a dietitian who consulted with Greg Kinnear about gaining weight for a role.

Toronto church steeples once soared, but are overpowered by bank towers.

I thought it was clever when someone wrote that architecture shows clearly who dominates a society, but now I doubt it. Creators of imagined realities don’t stick up high above the horizon, they spread out across the surface, occupying everything from vast tracts of valuable real estate to low-rent studios.

The very real importance of fantasy was underlined in today’s news when solutions to King Street’s downtown congestion were proposed. So many movies use that location to stand in for Chicago and other U.S. cities, upgrades for traffic flow must not impair its usefulness to filmmakers.

In our consumer society, a lot of what we consume isn’t real, in the ordinary sense of the word. Even newly built houses are pretend places made of artificial brick and 2×4 columns wrapped in cardboard sono tubes. We live in stage sets, surrounded by props.

A friend of mine came back from a trendy part of town saying he had to get away from it, fast. It made him feel painfully uncomfortable, almost ill. When I asked him what disturbed him so much, he paused to analyze his feelings, then found words. “It’s so FAKE!”

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