Immitation of life

Last night, I caught Jarhead on HBO and afterward found myself thinking that I wanted to be a Marine. Don’t get me wrong, this is not unique to either the movie, or the subject of the film. I often find myself wishing I was whatever it was that I was just watching on some interesting show. I wonder, though, if this is a common phenomenon (at least one that people will admit to). Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • When I watch any of the Rocky movies, I find I want to be a boxer
  • When I watch The Office I tell myself I want to be just like Jim Halpert (especially when he thinks up the clever practical jokes
  • When I watch Smallville I want to be Superman
  • If I watch a movie about lawyers, I want to be a lawyer; if I watch a movie about astronomers, I want to be an astronomer
  • When I watch House, I want to be just like Gregory House
  • When I watch Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers I find myself wishing I was an E Company soldier fighting in World War II

I suppose that well written film and television are supposed to have this effect on people, but I never hear anyone talk about it. As far as I know, I am the only person in the world who has ever admitted to these feelings of imitation. Do other people think like this?

What’s more is that I find myself doing this with my writing as well. If I have been reading Harlan Ellison stories, what I write shortly thereafter will have an attempt at a Harlan Ellison edge to it. If I have been reading a Barry Malzberg story, I’ll try writing something that has a Malzberg feel to it. Same for Bradbury. Or Asimov.

It has made me wonder if I have any personality of my own, or if I am just jumble of imitations and impressions I get from my reading and TV watching and movie watching. Sometimes I am hyper-conscious of this and other times I am completely unaware of it. Regardless, the feelings are fleeting; they last for a little while and then they drift off, replaced by feelings of imitation for the latest show or movie.

So don’t worry, I didn’t run out and join the Marines after watching Jarhead last night. I did get a pretty short “military-style” haircut, though. No, instead of joining the Marines, I thought long and hard about joining some counter-terrorism unit and becoming a super-secret agent. Of course, I had just finished watching the latest episode of 24, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it.

Published by Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.