Sunday, June 3, 2012

Derren Brown in "Paranormal Media"

I ran across an interesting discussion of Derren Brown in the 2011 book "Paranormal Media" (affiliate link). While the brief discussion of DB does not merit a reading of the entire book -- unless you are interested in it for its own sake -- the following comment about DB was insightful:

[Derren Brown's] style of entertainment highlights the framing of popular psychology as both a rational explanation for human behaviour and the mysteries of the mind.... In the same way that nineteenth-century magicians used a myth of the East to suggest ambiguous associations with magic and mysticism, so too does Brown use the myth of psychology as all powerful to great effect.

I think any long-time fan of Derren Brown ultimately comes to these conclusions. Technically, his illusions are of the same type as all performance magic, but his brilliance comes in creating a false explanation for illusions that is believable to modern audiences (i.e., pop psychology), analogous to the explanations that were believable to audiences two hundred years ago (i.e., the mysterious East).

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