Immitation of life

Last night, I caught Jarhead on HBO and afterward found myself thinking that I wanted to be a Marine. Don’t get me wrong, this is not unique to either the movie, or the subject of the film. I often find myself wishing I was whatever it was that I was just watching on some interesting show. I wonder, though, if this is a common phenomenon (at least one that people will admit to). Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • When I watch any of the Rocky movies, I find I want to be a boxer
  • When I watch The Office I tell myself I want to be just like Jim Halpert (especially when he thinks up the clever practical jokes
  • When I watch Smallville I want to be Superman
  • If I watch a movie about lawyers, I want to be a lawyer; if I watch a movie about astronomers, I want to be an astronomer
  • When I watch House, I want to be just like Gregory House
  • When I watch Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers I find myself wishing I was an E Company soldier fighting in World War II

I suppose that well written film and television are supposed to have this effect on people, but I never hear anyone talk about it. As far as I know, I am the only person in the world who has ever admitted to these feelings of imitation. Do other people think like this?

What’s more is that I find myself doing this with my writing as well. If I have been reading Harlan Ellison stories, what I write shortly thereafter will have an attempt at a Harlan Ellison edge to it. If I have been reading a Barry Malzberg story, I’ll try writing something that has a Malzberg feel to it. Same for Bradbury. Or Asimov.

It has made me wonder if I have any personality of my own, or if I am just jumble of imitations and impressions I get from my reading and TV watching and movie watching. Sometimes I am hyper-conscious of this and other times I am completely unaware of it. Regardless, the feelings are fleeting; they last for a little while and then they drift off, replaced by feelings of imitation for the latest show or movie.

So don’t worry, I didn’t run out and join the Marines after watching Jarhead last night. I did get a pretty short “military-style” haircut, though. No, instead of joining the Marines, I thought long and hard about joining some counter-terrorism unit and becoming a super-secret agent. Of course, I had just finished watching the latest episode of 24, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it.


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