Monday, May 31, 2021

Highly Imitative Aliens

If you go to Barcelona, one in three local women will strongly remind you of a female character from a Pedro Almodovar film. But it's not that Almodovar brilliantly portrayed the culture. It's the other way around. They act that way because they've all watched Almodovar films.

It's frequently been observed that mobsters since the 1970s have taken inspiration from the Godfather (and, later, The Sopranos) for their notions of gangster style and attitude.

There are a few dozen clone lines in any society, no more. People are types, which is adaptive behavior because it lubricates social interaction. When you meet a brassy lady with a gravelly voice and energetic good humor, you feel that you know that person. Love her or hate her, you can deal with her comfortably due to long experience with her clone line. Same for the aloofly ponderous academic. Or the BAD BOY. No one's born as these things. The personas are adopted via modeling, these days mostly via movie and TV actors. In the old days, one modeled the persona of a family member or another local "role models" (turn that phrase around in your mind for a moment!).

We really commit to the role. A person never feels more expressively uniquely himself than when he's being most flagrantly clone-ish. That's exactly how the millions driving VW bugs or listening to "indie rock" manage to feel fiercely nonconformist. ("Hey, I'm a free-thinking type! One of those!")

There was a Star Trek episode where a starship had accidentally left a book about 1920's gangland Chicago behind on a planet populated by particularly imitative aliens. When the Enterprise visited, everyone acted like gangsters and spoke with thick Chicago accents.

We are that planet.

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