Our Comic Book World

No, see, this isn’t right. In the movie, the main characters such as Roger Rabbit were animated fictions, and the rest of the world was real. Now it’s the other way around. (Photo by jbhthescots/Flickr)

A generation ago, a film titled Who Framed Roger Rabbit attracted a lot of attention for portraying cartoon characters playing out their roles in the real world. Now, something more sinister has happened; more and more of us are feeling like human beings living out our lives trapped in a cartoon. Reality seems to have been drained from the world around us, leaving us the only creatures left who are three-dimensional, and bleed.

Everywhere we look, imaginary animation is replacing reality. On our screens, people demonstrate their prevailing mood by leaping and dancing and shrieking with laughter and grinning idiotically — and this is because they got new dishes. Why do you and I never feel or act like that? Because we are real, not the product of sophomoric animators.

The screens teach us that for every bad feeling we have there’s a pill — and they prove it with animated (of course) illustrations of simple, machine-like digestive systems or nervous systems tamed in 30 seconds or less by ingesting an animated pill. My favorite is the laxative ad that shows the magic elixir taming all the angry internal arrows and making them turn cool blue instead of angry red and head obediently south. So subtle. Given a couple of thousand exposures to such messages, is it any wonder that young people are eating laundry soap — in case it might make them feel good?

But it’s not just advertising that sucks us into the two-dimensional, animated fantasy world.

  • Journalism takes us there all the time, and seldom brings us back, even when the news it’s trying to convey is not fake. As a minor, but irritating, example, take the recent story about the mistaken alert of an incoming missile, sent to the people of Hawaii. In virtually every story, the mistake was made by someone hitting “the wrong button.” But that was the cartoon version. In the real world there was no button, just a list of options on a drop-down menu on a computer screen. (Similarly, there is no “nuclear button” on either Donald Trump’s or Kim Jong Un’s desk.) What’s the difference? It’s the difference between animation and reality.
  • Politicians live in a comic book all the time, and it did not start with the current president. In their colorful pages, wealth trickles down, Christmas is under constant attack and there are no poor people, only lazy people. There is no climate change, no pollution. and we all benefit from what the cartoon-character-in-chief described just last night in his State of the Union address as “wonderful clean coal.” There is, of course, no such thing, outside of comic books, as clean coal.
  • Industry lies to us all the time, and always has done so, about what it’s doing and why, and what kind of a world will result. But I do not believe it has ever in history fooled more people, more of the time, about its ability to improve our lives and its innocence of the things that are ruining our lives. Exxon Mobil fooled us about what would happen when we burned all their petroleum; Monsanto fooled us about feeding the world, when what they were doing to the real world was poisoning it. Tesla Motors is fooling us about when they are going to have driverless cars on the road — it’s been two years away for about ten years now. (Outside the comic-book world, there is no such thing as a driverless car, anywhere in the world.)

The death of reality in our surroundings and our discourse should not surprise us. For a very long time now we have been electing the people who draw for us the best comic book, buying the products that make us feel the most euphoric and out of touch with reality, accepting narcotic lies even when ascertaining the prickly truth would be easy. Even when we try to get away from our comic-book world, it seems all we do is crawl into another comic book. Of the ten top-grossing movies of 2017, five were based on comic books (the rest were either science- or escapist-fiction).

How do we get back to the real world of Roger Rabbit, where the idiots are cartoon characters and the rest of the world is real?


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7 Responses to Our Comic Book World

  1. colinc says:

    It takes two to tango.

    While all of the above missive is astutely correct, as usual Mr. Lewis, you still shy away from the most critical factor. That is, as “Fox Mulder’s” office poster (and 1 movie title) states, “I Want to Believe.” Why is it, do you suppose, that the vast majority of, ahem, “humans” seem to prefer to remain gullible? Could it be that they merely don’t want to do the work of learning and that believing is easier? Or could it be, for any number of reasons, that the majority of believers simply aren’t equipped with the appropriate “faculties” and are incapable of learning? There’s only one way this ends and it won’t be easy or pretty.

    • Apneaman says:

      colinc, methinks you are crediting the humans with choices/preferences they do not have. What you see is what you get with the humans.

      Is denial the secret of humanity’s success?

      “But to Ajit Varki, an oncologist and specialist in human origins, and Danny Brower, a geneticist who died in 2007, denial is something altogether different: a prerequisite for human intelligence.

      That startling premise is explored in their book Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind.”

      “And so comes the second necessary breakthrough – the ability to deny reality, including the reality of death: I know that I’m going to die but carry on as though I’m immortal, meanwhile spreading my DNA around like nobody’s business.

      The fusion of these two developments spread like wildfire through the several thousand anatomically modern humans who lived, say, 100,000 years ago. This mind-over-reality theory is one explanation for why we are the only surviving human species, Dr. Varki said. (The book describes the process as a kind of “intellectual arms race.”)

      Even today, Dr. Varki speculates, it might be that one cause of depression is that a person loses the ability to deny death, making life seem futile. After facing the hell of reality straight on, the depressed person cannot cope any more.”


      There is no ceiling on denial, so if Trump and his Cancer crew are around long enough their next step will be to censor the media and individuals who mention AGW. They will threaten to ruin lives and/or jail people.

      • BC_EE says:

        That’s a fatalistic and limited theory. Spirituality is supposed to teach that life in the here and now, the materialistic existence is not all there is. The larger question is what has shut down our understanding. This is not a fatalistic death cult premise.

        As they say, au contraire. Because I have experienced death I have some insight. It’s thousands of years older than I, the philosophy of the extension of life with death in a continuum. But this understanding is not available to everyone. The reasons why the more enlightened tend to withdraw from “The Maddening Crowd”. (Never did read Hardy’s book because I couldn’t tolerate his diction after 1.5 pages – so excuse the misplaced reference if that is the case).

        Our next knowledge evolution lies within The Energy-Consciousness Transform. This is the third leg of physical universe understanding that completes the missing parts of the puzzle. Newtonian mechanics was the first leg. Einstein’s General Relativity and Special Relativity was the second leg. The E-C Transform is the third.

        In the context of this discussion, the theory stipulates we are constantly transforming energy and consciousness – you’re doing it now.

        The ability, or engine if you prefer, to conduct the transform is based upon the complexity of the Body. The Body has a range from the galactic to the microscopic.

        Once one understands the complexities and transactions of the human is not the sole domain of the cranium, but exists throughout including the cells, nervous system, all the trillions of complex transactions every second we come to understand how the energy and consciousness of the universe is us, and us is it.

        This may appear a derivative of Buddhist philosophy, and I am most certain it is. It is also derivative of just about every spiritual teaching. It belongs to no creed. And that is good news. This is old stuff folks. I was just able to derive it terms that brings the esoteric of the spiritual and the material/physical of science together. The math is still pretty hard and not definitive yet; perhaps someday we will get it reduced to something like E=mc^2. But its not for me; and that is also part of it. There is great satisfaction that my consciousness will extend into generations as others take up the challenge to work through the problem. Think Faraday and Maxwell.

        Getting back towards the article. Once we understand our role in society is not so mechanistic (Newtonian) as “a cog”, or an energy producer/consumer (Einstein, mass-energy), but as entity of consciousness and energy that interacts with all around us do we lose our loneliness and despair. Some call it knitting circles, others drum circles, and some church. I call it breathing.

        Wow,…, I guess that deserves another cup of coffee :-)

        Didn’t expect that from an Engineer, eh? :-)

        • SomeoneInAsia says:


          Did you actually have a near-death experience? How I envy you. :)

          The West used to have a spiritual tradition of her own which promulgated a vision of the Divine in all things and all things in the Divine. Think Jacob Boehme, Robert Fludd, St Hildegard of Bingen etc. The trouble was that such a vision was threatening to the CHURCH, because it implied you don’t need a Saviour, and if people didn’t see the Church as holding the exclusive keys to salvation they wouldn’t fear the Church anymore, except the Church uses this fear to maintain the established order. (“If you don’t listen to me then eternal damnation shall be your lot.”) So the Church condemned this tradition and chased it underground, and upheld a view of the Divine as situated far away from humanity — so far away people in the West, ironically enough, eventually began to wonder if God exists at all. Thus the march towards the disenchanted, materialistic modern world began.

          Hopefully the said vision is on its way back again, as you seem to suggest. But can it save us, given the extremity of the situation we are in now?…

    • Leroy stoner says:

      I agree,simply put, some brains can absorb more then other brains.

  2. SomeoneInAsia says:

    QUOTE: ***Why is it, do you suppose, that the vast majority of, ahem, “humans” seem to prefer to remain gullible?***

    Because in the real world there’s no Santa Claus.

  3. SomeoneInAsia says:

    There’s a reason why I happen to have very little patience for stuff like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. The reason is that some of the things they say or imply about reality are simply an insult to my intelligence. Good and evil are clearly distinguishable in separate individuals — and easily identified by their attire and/or appearance. Entire groups of people — or of some other sort of biped — can be all evil. Saving the world (or shire or galaxy or whatever) is a simple matter of cleaning away the baddies like cleaning away so many roaches. And you can have wars which are all thrills and action and in which you don’t see a single bit of gore or carnage. Yeah, right. Yeah, right. And yeah, right again.

    Certain beliefs — if beliefs they are — can actually help sustain our lives individually and collectively, such as the belief in a teleological Universe supportive of humanity’s noblest longings. But there are also many other beliefs subscribing to which just leads to endless mischief, such as the currently universal belief — easily disproved by basic arithmetic — that infinite growth is possible in a finite world. Such beliefs all too often grossly contradict reality, so much so that accepting and acting upon them just doesn’t lead to our best interests. In the long term anyway.

    It is interesting to ask, as colinc does, why so many of us today want to believe in such plain falsehoods. A possible reason could be the historical disenchantment of the Universe in the Western mind. (David Ray Griffin discussed in detail in chapter 5 of his Religion and Scientific Naturalism how God came to be exorcised from the Natural world during the 17th century.) There was simply no Santa Claus, no higher power, in the scheme of things — a state of affairs intolerable to many in the West, I’m sure. Hence the desperate need for an alternative to slake that deeper thirst — such as the belief in material progress, with all the falsehoods it entails. (Most Asians didn’t have too much of a hard time believing in a higher purpose; they mainly adopted the belief in material progress so as not to be trampled upon.)

    Descartes tried at first to bring God back into the big picture. Later Hume rejected his arguments. Still later Kant tried to salvage the whole situation, but his attempts ironically made everything worse — they amounted to saying you can belief whatever you want. The rest is history.

    My two cents.

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