There are two kinds of people in this world: those of us who view the idea of round-the-clock reality television stardom as a faraway dream, and those of us who only put on makeup for funerals and job interviews and think that being in any kind of spotlight sounds like an actual nightmare. But what if you didn't have a choice?
It's a recurring theme in our favorite dystopian stories — take Truman Show, the Matrix, or Syfy's Ascension, which continues tonight 12/16 and tomorrow 12/17 — characters think they're living normal lives, with free will and — characters think they're living normal lives, with free will and choice and all that, but the audience discovers there's more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye, and they've been pawns in a larger game all along. Those are just stories, though, right? That's not happening to you right now, is it? Just in case, I've collected a few warning signs that may indicate that you, yes you, are the unwilling star of someone's favorite show. Is someone controlling your life?
We all have those social media stalkers who insist on liking every Instagram of your breakfast, but what if you can't so much as go out for drinks without a riot of phone notifications? If every move is met with laughter and applause, you may be the center of a very strange world. If it seems like you're being watched by way more people than you're watching, be afraid.
Real life is unpredictable. What starts out as a terrible day might turn out great by the end. Fiction is less unpredictable, with specific, contrived twists intended to teach lessons and fortify morals. If your efforts to turn a bad day around seem thwarted at every turn, beware: someone's trying to teach you (and maybe the audience) a lesson. If you feel like you're the target of fireballs, literal or figurative, be on the lookout for silver parachutes meant to reward you - the odds are likely not in your favor.
Your role as a potential reality TV star might allow for you to up and go to the coast for the weekend, but quitting your job with no notice and moving to New Zealand to farm sheep might get you cancelled. Should you find yourself like Truman Burbank, floating on a raft and bumping up against the edge of the world, don't say I didn't warn you.
Sure, plenty of people's parents tell them that they're special, but there's a difference between being really good at getting your food from your plate to your mouth and having the gift. There's a fair chance that, if you seem to have supernatural powers, you don't actually, but it sure would make for a more interesting plotline, wouldn't it? If you're the sort of person that's always experiencing paranormal phenomena, if ghost hunting and psychic dreams seem to be your specialties, what is that you're really experiencing?
We've all had to cut a toxic person out of our lives, or off of our spaceship. But if an obnoxious ex-lover just won't go away, consider that they're paid to be there. Movies need villains, pro-wrestlers need a heel, and reality TV will conjure a villain out of even the blandest of casts. You know those people who, when you insist you recognize them, insist they just 'have one of those faces?' Don't believe it for a second. More likely, they're a paid extra, there to thwart you at every turn. Take the first opportunity to throw a drink in their face and declare them a pretender. It helps if you look up at the cameras in the sky when you do so. It's a better effect.
We're not saying that you're part of a larger entertainment empire whose rise and fall is based on what kind of ratings you draw. But we are saying this: your left side is your good side, don't worry about the ten pounds the camera adds, and there's someone RIGHT BEHIND YOU! You may have already assembled your dream team, but are you ready for this?
Just kidding. Or are we? Comment below to let us know how you keep it real in a world that could be nothing more than fake.
Tini Howard is a freelance blogger, journalist, resume writer, and novelist.
Illustrations by Todd Detwiler