simple stories. and simple people.

I want to share a musing on The Apprentice because it ties in nicely with a personal reflection that’s been in my thoughts a lot lately.

I’m still amazed at how similar main elements from The Apprentice are to every day life. The Apprentice was all about simplicity. I’m not talking about the tasks, but the way producers boiled contestants down and the subsequent editing. The editing is basically an extreme caricature of each of the contestants. Fittingly, here’s a simple categorization of the editing:

1) The first category of edits: extremely flattering. It’s “earned” because the contestant survived until the end of the show. If you make it to the end of the show, the editors basically have to make you look as favorable as possible or the credibility of the show gets called into question. Many, if not all, mistakes, backstabbing, and ugly moments are totally glossed over and ignored.

2) The next category: assassination. If a contestant has some notable accomplishments, but is fired, the editors work overtime. There’s a “trinity of facts” that the editors can’t really change (even if they wish they could):

1) who the project manager was
2) which team won or lost
3) who got fired

So editors work backwards from the firing to make it all seem justified. In any given week, there’s enough to edit together a justification for probably half the cast to get fired.

3) The last category of editing is very gentle. You get a decent flavor for who the person is, but their mistakes, and personality is amplified. And this is where I merge into my own personal reflection. The person is simplified. They’re made to personify one or two adjectives.

What’s interesting to me is that we do this every day, too. We boil other people down into one or two words. We try and get them into a box. In some cases, it’s probably justified. Some people are so dominated by a few characteristics that labeling them is appropriate. In other cases, I think it’s done to protect our self-esteem.

Say we find person X funny. Their humor skills can’t be denied since everyone is cracking up. Now let’s say that we like to think that we’re also pretty funny, and feel a touch of insecurity that X is funnier then we are. We then reduce them to the “funny guy” and think of them as someone who is funny but doesn’t have grace. Or is funny, but not smart. We  try to fit other people into these cramped little boxes, so that their skills, personality, or whatever it is, doesn’t threaten or “diminish” our sense of specialness.

I’ve noticed that this simplification/rationalization/boxification creeps into my head every now and again. Once I noticed it, I saw it all around me. I frequently see someone talented at something, and then see other people pay them a complement, and then loop back to themselves with some subtle (well, how subtle depends on the person) self-compliment.

I’ve re-read this and I don’t know that it makes sense. But in an effort to blog more, I’m not going to edit. So I’m hitting publish.

5/13/13 – On a number of entries, I’ve clearly sacrificed quality for quantity. I can’t decide if this is in that category. Maybe.

3 thoughts on “simple stories. and simple people.

  1. I agree with you Surya to a point. We do tend to categorize people and we do usually make a point of trying to make ourselves look good. The big difference between real life and editing – like on The Apprentice, is that in real life we have the opportunity to see more in people – whereas in the Apprentice we really only see what they choose to show us. I know we don't always look for the good and bad in people – but at least in real life we have the opportunity. Maybe we need to look some more…

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