Why Won't You Like Me?
I’m sorry I missed last week’s blog. I really was very unwell. Thanks to everyone who got in touch to wish me better, it mean a lot.
I was at a gig a fortnight ago, doing my usual thing - blowing minds, breaking hearts* - standard fare. At one point I heard someone introduced as “a virgin to magicians”. Wonderful, I declared, let me show you my best stuff! I must admit that my excitement meant it took me an extra second to notice as she recoiled from my fan of cards. I looked confusedly at the chap who had introduced her and asked “a virgin? A magic virgin?” It turns out that no, she was ALLERGIC to magicians.
As a magician I meet and perform to all kinds of people. For me, and I would imagine most magicians, the majority of my audience don’t really want to see me. By that I mean they aren’t there to watch magic. They are out to have a drink or a meal with friends and, surprisingly, there just happens to be a magician performing as well. Now, most of the time that’s fine. People are happy or even genuinely excited to find out that they are going to have a mini magic show. Then, of course, there are people who are thoroughly disinterested but not what you might call ‘hostile’ to what you’re doing. It may take a little work but usually they get into the swing of things. Finally there is a minority of people who don’t want to see magic. Quite often I find that even members of this group come round to enjoying the show. I imagine they may have never seen magic live before, an absolute must to really enjoy the medium. Perhaps they have a set idea in their head of how the night was going to be and a change has disturbed that, but once their thinking has readjusted to allow for the thought of magic, it’s fine. But there really are some people who just don’t want to watch magic, for whatever reason.
Of this group, the one’s I find really interesting are much like the lady I met who prompted this blog in the first place. Obviously she wasn’t allergic to magic, however, she had an innate mistrust of it, one that was so strong that she really was uncomfortable with me performing too close to her. We ended up chatting for a bit after I had finished and, as I had suspected, the problem she had with magic was that she simply didn’t understand how it was done. It made no sense to her and, as it made no sense, it made her uneasy. Not just that, but she felt like she was being lied to when a magician performed. In her words ‘you’re just up to something, and I don’t like it.’
Now and then this is an audience type a magician has to deal with. They’ve come out to a restaurant and, not unreasonably, haven’t expected to be confronted by some shyster in an ill-fitting waistcoat, wielding a deck of cards. It’s very possible you feel that way too, so perhaps I can share with you a few of my thoughts on this, and why – though I understand why someone might feel this way – I don’t agree. I’ll also try to give some kind of answer to these issues.
The three reasons I’ve heard from people for not liking magic are:
“I’m Being Lied To”
This is an interesting objection, because it is one hundred percent true. A magician is absolutely lying to you. We try to make you look in one direction when we’re doing things in the other. We tell you we’re shuffling cards when we’re doing nothing of the sort. Every move we make is calculated to make you see the world in a way we want you too, rather than the reality of your situation. But so what? A magician is no more lying to you than the actor declaring they see a dagger before them. When we go to the theatre we know that every word spoken is a lie. The person on stage doesn’t really love their husband, or fear their impending death. But for the sake of entertainment, we accept every word they say. A magician is just the same, only in a far more naturalist setting.
Answer: A magician’s lie is just part of an act. It’s no more malicious than smiling and saying it’s fine when someone else takes the last Yorkshire pudding. Everyone around the table know's you don't really mean what you're saying, but as everyone know's that, it doesn't really matter.
“I Don’t Understand It”
I always wonder why this matters. There are plenty of things we don’t understand in this world but that doesn’t stop our enjoyment of them. I know a little bit about technology, but I have no real idea how the letters I’m typing are appearing on this computer screen. I don’t know why the paracetamol I took this morning made my head feel better, but it did. This misgiving probably comes from the fact that whilst the two examples I’ve given – IT and medicine – are the realm of academic rigour, a magic trick is something anyone can do. It should be easy enough to work out, all a person has to do is catch the sleight of hand and the mystery is solved. This is a perfectly legitimate way to watch magic, and is in fact how I started learning myself. Sadly, though, it seems for some people this can ruin magic.
Answer: Look at magic like a maths question. There is a way to solve it. Unfortunatly sometimes you can’t do it because it’s either too complex, or because you haven’t been given enough variables. And if not knowing really frustrates you and you want to know how it's done the answer is easy: learn magic!
“Magicians Are So Arrogant”
Right. Well… Er… The only response I have to this is that I am no more arrogant now than before I started doing magic.
Answer: Find a nicer magician.
The purpose of all of this isn't to poo poo anyones fears of even phobias. Rhabdophobia is a very real - though rare - thing. It's more of a hope that I can present a different world view to the one someone who doesn't enjoy magic holds, that might help them develop a taste for a type of performance that I beleive is one of the most facinating things in the world.
That’s it for this week’s blog. As ever, thank you for taking the time to read.
*Sweating profusely whilst hoping no one realises I’m nervous as hell.