The Magic Café
Username:
Password:
[ Lost Password ]
  [ Forgot Username ]
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Making it Personal a new trend? (17 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Wandering Man
View Profile
New user
29 Posts

Profile of Wandering Man
I am very, very new to the world of magicians, so this observation may be totally off-base.

In my search for all things magical I have noticed quite a few mentalist effects in which the the magician asks the subject to think of a name, number, time, etc. that holds special meaning for them. Then they stare deeply into the eyes of the subject and pull out some personal, intimate and emotionally charged memory for the audience to witness.

Is this a new trend? Or has this been going on for decades?

It is somewhat bothersome to me to see this form of presentation. It is probably just my perspective. I can appreciate that a magical effect is more meaningful to the audience when there is an emotional and personal component to it. However, as a psychologist for over 40 years, it feels a little like exploitation. I have spent thousands of hours working with clients helping them look at, understand, and put into perspective painful memories. It is always an intimate relationship built on trust and confidence. It is mostly a client centered task. That is, the waking up of very personal information, the bringing forth of tears, anger, anxiety is primarily for the benefit of the client.

As an aside, I must acknowledge that providing psychotherapy is not completely altruistic. There are always benefits to the therapist: we receive payment from the client's insurance, we feel the satisfaction of having done good work, and a truly good therapist receives lessons about our own humanness. Given that the therapist is getting something in return, the majority of the focus is on the client, the relationship is long-term, it builds over time, and the memories invoked are not shared with an audience. The purpose is not entertainment.

When I watch videos of magicians doing their routine, I see someone using the emotional response as a tool that serves mostly themselves. They are asking something intimate and personal from the subject. And while this is not usually a painful memory, it is nevertheless a situation in which the request for intimate information is not reciprocated. The magician creates an impression of caring about the subject which is apparently false and which exists only in the moment.

Perhaps I am just being too sensitive.
Never argue with drunks or crazy people.
Mindpro
View Profile
Inner circle
9570 Posts

Profile of Mindpro
I think you are discovering several different issues at hand. One being the many differences between mentalism and magic (no they aren't the same, both in execution and acceptance and believability) and another being you're quite observant fact that today most magicians perform from their own point of view, not necessarily that of the longtime magic industry or those receiving it.

If there is a trend today it is in wanting to see "real" magic.
Terrible Wizard
View Profile
Inner circle
1973 Posts

Profile of Terrible Wizard
Interesting thread and perspective.
tommy
View Profile
Eternal Order
Devil’s Island
15746 Posts

Profile of tommy
I think it has been going on forever, going on my older books but it is, I think. a fashion that goes around. People follow their stars and it seems to me, we now have stars like Blain and Angle leading the way and they sail close to the wind, in my view. We have an upsurge in New Agers as the religion has gone down and we might call this paganism. All of which I think has its effect on art in general.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Terrible Wizard
View Profile
Inner circle
1973 Posts

Profile of Terrible Wizard
Wandering Man: Would your general approach be, then, to steer clear of adding personal elements to magic tricks - either for fear of a negative response, or out of a desire to be non-manipulative?

This certainly has something going for it, IMHO.

However, if by adding in these personal elements more joy or wonder can be elicited, how are we to balance out the potential increase in pleasure against the increased risk of negative emotions? Should we always err on the side of caution? Or we should we retain a personal non-manipulation principle even if that potentially results in less awe and joy for our spectators?

Interesting discussion.
Wandering Man
View Profile
New user
29 Posts

Profile of Wandering Man
It’s not asking for a name, date, or time that is meaningful that bothers me. It has more to do with the theatrics. The looks of intense concern, the assumption that “we” are now emotionally connected, etc.

The effect can still be amazing and entertaining without pretending an emotional connection exists that isn’t really there.

As far as the questions about what we should do, I don’t want to be a rule maker. I was just making an observation.

Not all mentalists do this, just a few. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where you felt like they had just thrown in an unnecessary scene for the sole purpose of making the audience cry? That’s the kind of thing I’m reacting to.

I’m not going to point out anyone specific, but this episode of Penn and Teller helped to triggered this line of my thinking and the idea that there are other ways to do mentalism:

https://youtu.be/uSQXbeGZPe8
Never argue with drunks or crazy people.
Terrible Wizard
View Profile
Inner circle
1973 Posts

Profile of Terrible Wizard
Interesting thoughts. I think I tend to agree with you that theatrics can do more harm than good.
danaruns
View Profile
Special user
The City of Angels
793 Posts

Profile of danaruns
I'm thinking of a moment in Derek Delgaudio's show, "In And Of Itself," where he gets a random audience member on stage, and that person chooses an envelope from about a hundred of them, and inside the envelope is a personal letter, addressed to them, from one of the most important people in their lives. Sometimes it is from a spouse, sometimes an estranged child, sometimes someone who is deceased, sometimes a long lost friend, etc. Each night it's something highly personal and highly emotional. I saw a woman break down sobbing on stage, and she refused to share with the audience what was in the letter. And Derek didn't force it, he just let it be.

It's a very powerful moment. Extremely powerful sometimes, depending on the audience member and the letter writer. It's the kind of effect that affects you, and stays with you for years, even if you were just watching. I can't imagine what it's like for the selected audience member. And Derek does it with tremendous sensitivity and respect, not a voyeuristic or sensational thing, at all. In fact, he under sells it by a wide margin.

Thinking of that, I see nothing but good in it. It's the most powerful magic there is. Highly personal is highly memorable. And it brings tremendous power to the show. I've never heard of a single person involved complaining about it. Not one. And he's done this show nightly for more than a year, in two different cities.

So, at least in this instance, I see no harm.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Terrible Wizard
View Profile
Inner circle
1973 Posts

Profile of Terrible Wizard
To me that sounds like playing with fire. I can't imagine how painful and embarrassing such a 'trick' could end up being, what trauma could be dredged up etc. It doesn't seem right simply for the sake of a magic trick. I wouldn't appreciate such a thing done to me or those I care about, and I'd feel pretty bad being an audience member there tbh.
danaruns
View Profile
Special user
The City of Angels
793 Posts

Profile of danaruns
Quote:
On Nov 21, 2017, Terrible Wizard wrote:
To me that sounds like playing with fire. I can't imagine how painful and embarrassing such a 'trick' could end up being, what trauma could be dredged up etc. It doesn't seem right simply for the sake of a magic trick. I wouldn't appreciate such a thing done to me or those I care about, and I'd feel pretty bad being an audience member there tbh.


I've never heard of anyone who didn't like it. I just googled what people had to say about it, and this was the first to come up:

Quote:
Finally, I will now talk about the last, most astonishing, most emotionally dramatic of the evening's effects. I will call it, "The Letter." The effect was so strong that I can't recall the lead-up to it, although I'm sure it was narratively appropriate. At a certain point, DelGaudio was holding a hand full of envelopes that was part of the previous effect. He invited an audience member (again, seemingly fairly at random), to sit on the stage with him. He handed him the envelopes (at least a dozen), and asked him to choose one. The magician pointed out that all the letters were addressed to DelGaudio, and that the return addresses were redacted. On the back of each envelope was written a different word having to do with family it seemed, although I'm not too certain about that. For example, on one was written, "mother" or "sister." On the letter the spectator chose was written, "Grandfather."

The magician then told the man that he was to open the envelope, and that within he would find a real letter written to him (the spectator) from his grandfather (whom the spectator confirmed was still alive) - a letter that was new and that he's never seen before. What on earth was DelGaudio talking about? The magician cautioned the man that he might have an emotional reaction upon reading the letter, that others had in the past. He could read it to himself or out loud. The spectator chose the latter.

The man proceeded to read a heart-warming, loving letter from a grandfather to his son, talking about how proud he was of him and mentioning some specifics about the man's career, etc. DelGaudio pointed out that it was hand-written, and the spectator confirmed it was his grandfather's handwriting, as he stood there on the stage visibly emotional, hands slightly shaking. All he could say was, "How? How did you do that?"

How, indeed.

​The piece packed an emotional wallop for everyone in the theater, not least of course for the man on the stage. It was intense. DelGaudio created a genuine moment of humanity out of a magic trick - no small feat.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Terrible Wizard
View Profile
Inner circle
1973 Posts

Profile of Terrible Wizard
Good. But what if it went bad? Doesn't that seem a genuine risk here? I mean, I'm just an ordinary bloke, but I've got certai memories that I wouldn't want dredged. What about those who really had something dark in their past? I'm not sure that it's a morally justifiable risk for entertainment.

I guess without knowing/seeing the exact mechanics of the trick I can't really say much more, but I'm concerned from what I've read so far.
Wandering Man
View Profile
New user
29 Posts

Profile of Wandering Man
There was a trend in the 1970's and 1980's to train therapists that catharsis is the means to a cure. As a result, everyone competed to see who could make their client cry the hardest. I returned home from one such training remembering the unfortunate spelling of therapist: the _ rapist. We were basically being trained to emotionally rape our clients. Not at all good for any mental health professional. This trend transitioned into the Repressed Memory / False Memory crisis that we committed upon our selves in the mid to late 1980's. Remember all the adult children who were suddenly suing their parents for molesting them as children. The self-help industry exploded about this time, and you could find title after title on books to help you determine whether you had been molested as an infant, and had repressed those memories. Or perhaps your parents or grandparents were members of a satanic cult.

The problem with the lists of "symptoms" was that they were common to many legitimate conditions. Can't sleep? Anxious around other adults? Feeling depressed? Don't have 100% recall of your childhood? Then you must have been abused.

All this is just to point out playing around with emotional memory is playing with a double sided sword. Cutting one way, it is wonderful. Swing it back accidentally, and someone might get hurt. Even therapists are enamored with the power of emotion, and sometimes we can hurt our clients more than help them.
Never argue with drunks or crazy people.
Terrible Wizard
View Profile
Inner circle
1973 Posts

Profile of Terrible Wizard
You've presented us much to think about, Wandering Man. I'm glad you did. I'm having to think about some stuff.
Aus
View Profile
Special user
Australia
925 Posts

Profile of Aus
I have had this very discussion on the Café many times before Wandering man.

There seem to be two camps when magicians are confronted with the legitimacy of what they do, the first one is by confessing trickery and subterfuge well the other camp to which some magicians and almost all mentalists subscribe to is the belief that the job of the magician/mentalist is to have the audience leave the show with misconceptions of reality.

From the mentalist perspective they distance themselves from magicians and the term tricks, and to my observation, it seems to be in some sort of effort of preservation. There is an opinion that mentalism is the last frontier in magic where what the audience sees can perhaps be looked at as real in some way and by that reasoning they don't want the impact of what they do trivialized as just a trick. They make clear distinctions to classify Mental Magic as being different to Mentalism. The best definitions of which I can find between the two are described below:

Mental magic: an effect, often given during a magic show, that implies some sort of mental, psychic, or spiritual basis. Acknowledged as a trick. Some performers will do several unconnected mental magic effects and call themselves mentalists, when "mental magician" would be more accurate.

Mentalism: one or more effects that imply mental, psychic or spiritual basis and that follow a common thread during an act. Not necessarily story drive or "bizarre." May or may not be presented as tricks, possibly real or real.

But this brings up the pivotal question which is the point of this thread, is this ethical?

What you name or represent something to me is important, as it can skew people’s sense of reality. If companies assign unethical practices simple and humorous euphemisms (like “financial engineering” for accounting fraud), employees are less likely to take their unethical behaviour seriously. Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, was famous for saying, “Doing business is a game, the greatest game in the world if you know how to play it.” Something as simple as calling a business a game can make people less likely to see that their actions have serious, real-world consequences. If we as performers simply put things down to artistic license are we simply putting ourselves at risk of the same thing?

We magicians need logical understandings so we can bend and distort them with the tricks we do in order to create the impossible. Where the real risk in what we do, is where we leave things ambiguously undefined and the brain has to make a decision whether to take the appearance of what they have seen at face value or whether it should try to discount the part of the information that conflicts with their normal understanding of things.

So it should not be surprising that inference of what things are can be dramatically influenced by context and we as magicians are responsible for the context of our performances.

If you want to see a good test case of tricks used with a strong theatrical presentation affecting peoples beliefs then I would recommend watching Darren Brown:







Magic methods can and have been used by charlatans to further there aims.

Magic has a very long illustrious history of defining its self from such associations. Ever since the first magic book The Discovery of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot in 1584 was published there has existed in the earliest account of magic history an overtone of distinguishing our art from other forms of practices that could easily be mistaken for our own. Reginald Scot no doubt had to battle superstition and ignorance and the publishing of his book was in no small way an attempt at overcoming that.

Over centuries this has since evolved from avoiding persecution as a witch to taking a moralistic stand, since the 1920s when Houdini turned his energies toward debunking psychics and mediums who prayed on the vulnerable, modern day equivalents have stood in his stead like the Amazing Randi to Penn and Teller to continue the cause.

I feel that empathy is the probably the ethical avenue of which we can still maintain the emotional and personal component without necessarily trampling all over our spectator's own personal life experiences. In life, there are universal experiences that we can all relate to in one way or another. The connection then isn't from the magician to the spectator but rather from the spectator to the performer where the performer is simply offering the jumping off point for that connection.

I feel that empathy is what swells emotion in emotional movie scenes, everyone can relate to a happy or sad situation whether they have personal experience in that situation or not. The personal life experience of the situation is not a prerequisite for emotion.

Magically

Aus
Wandering Man
View Profile
New user
29 Posts

Profile of Wandering Man
Thank you, Aus. I love it when I learn another name for snow. It helps me see the subtleties of a subject. And thank you for your well thought out reply. The videos are awesome, too.
Never argue with drunks or crazy people.
Terrible Wizard
View Profile
Inner circle
1973 Posts

Profile of Terrible Wizard
Yeah, Derren Brown whilst being a great master at his craft, really knows how to push boundaries and stuff. I don't like his persona, or his manipulations of people, or his patter, and I can see why his stuff ties in nicely with the ethical issues Wandering Man was raising. I think I generally have similar concerns over hypnotism shows etc.
RCarruth
View Profile
Loyal user
Spartanburg, S.C.
207 Posts

Profile of RCarruth
To lie or not to lie. One of the dilemmas facing magicians and mentalists. And -if- you lie.. how far are you willing to go? Or should you go there at all. I enjoyed that Derren Brown began his career as a performer who used both scientific and infinitesimal physical gestures to ascertain a spectator's thoughts.. supposedly. And then he went somewhere perhaps he shouldn't. Mentalism itself is a debate waiting to happen.
Magic Roadshow - Magic's #1 Free Newsletter
http://magicroadshow.com
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Making it Personal a new trend? (17 Likes)
[ Top of Page ]
All content & postings Copyright © 2001-2019 Steve Brooks. All Rights Reserved.
This page was created in 0.27 seconds requiring 5 database queries.
The views and comments expressed on The Magic Café
are not necessarily those of The Magic Café, Steve Brooks, or Steve Brooks Magic.
> Privacy Statement <

ROTFL Billions and billions served! ROTFL