Behind the mask, Behind the curtain

King Of Comedy (1982)

Everyone secretly wants to be loved or considered special. What we all have in common is that really we want to be liked by others and to gain respect, as this is something (like Love) that cannot be bought. In one of my favourite films The King of Comedy pictured above, Robert De Niro plays the character of Rupert Pupkin who has high hopes to be the next top chat show host in America just like his idol Jerry Lewis. It is unclear whether the fabric of the film is based largely in reality but what is clear is that Rupert is a fantasist. Rupert is so wound up in his goal, that he is willing to make a complete fool of himself no matter what the cost. The tragedy behind the film is that he is so desperate to shed his own image that he is unaware of what a fool he is becoming. Very early in the film during a rush of flashing lights from the press, and hundreds of fans clambering outside Jerry’s limousine, Rupert tries to pose as a security guard and manages to finagle his way into the back seat with Jerry. Dressed in a cheap polyester suit Rupert begs Jerry to let them drive on so he can get some advice from him. Even when Rupert is speaking to his idol he manages to maintain this heightened false-confidence until the following dialogue:

Rupert: Jerry believe me, I’m really good I’m dynamite and I wouldn’t take one minute of your time unless I thought I was dynamite…I’ve just been biding my time… I’m ready, and thinking as I’m sitting here now, this is my big break, this is my big chance. what do you think?

Jerry: Alright look pal, gotta tell you this is a crazy business but it is not like any other business, but there are ground rules! You don’t just walk on to a network show without experience! Now I know this is an old hackneyed expression but it happens to be the truth: you got to start at the bottom.

Rupert: I know that’s where, I am at the bottom!

JerryWell that’s a perfect place to start!

As I watch this film I realise that in varying degrees we all have a part of Rupert inside of us. We all want to be ‘stars’ in our own lives and will regularly embellish the intensity of our concerns and downplay our achievements. Although true in a sense of business, in life there is no such thing as ‘the bottom’ and nobody can claim to own the keys to happiness, regardless of how successful they are. Rupert as a character is very guarded and even when he is at home, he lives in his world of make believe talking to his cardboard cut outs of celebrities. When we are at home we might not be so deluded, and might feel a bit depressed at times, and on the rare occasion that this happens you might look down on yourself and think that your life isn’t as good as others. My advice to people who feel that way is to think hard about the lives of others. Somewhere at this exact moment in time someone is struggling to sleep because tomorrow they are going to court to fight their defence to a loosing case and could spend the rest of their life in prison. Somewhere at this exact moment someone is unwell in a hospital ward with no family by their side. Somewhere at this exact moment someone has confided in their family as a homosexual only to be cast out and abandoned by the ones that they love. Just because you do not see those people doesn’t mean that they do not exist. Those people would trade their lives with you in a heartbeat if they only had the chance. Okay maybe you are not buzzing and full of happiness but you are not in tears, you’re not on trial and you are not being rejected.

We all wear masks when we speak to our work colleagues, and even wear masks when we speak to our family. Hiding behind a mask and not showing your true colours can give someone strength and can be dangerous. We must never forget the importance of leaving your shell to try new experiences.

“When we lift the covers of our feelings, we expose our insecure spots. Trust is just as rare as devotion, forgive us our cynical thoughts. When we need too much approval, not content on being cool… we must throw ourselves wide open and start acting like a fool” – Emotion Detector, Rush

The lyric above is so true in expressing how we are so quick to adapt and change who we are just to win the approval of others. The truth is that everyone is doing, everyone is hiding. Maybe if we focus really hard on the interactions of others we will catch a moments glance from behind the mask or behind the curtain.

As in previous blogs I have written below a list of songs for you to try out which I think echo the point I was making above. If you have any song recommendations for me then I would welcome them in the comments section.

  • “Big Shot” – Billy Joel
  • “Don’t be shy” – Cat Stevens
  • “Poor boy” – Supertramp
  • “Emotion Detector” – Rush
  • “El Condor Pasa (If I Could) – Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Let’s Talk About Me” – The Alan Parsons Project
  • “Talk of the Town” – The Pretenders

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