“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” Jim Morrison. Are we shaped or molded by the messages the media sends out? If so, how? Does media affect the way we look at ourselves or influence our perceptions of reality? Does media influence our behavior? Chance the main character of the novel, is an orphan who has been sheltered in the large estate of the “Old Man” since he was a child. Chance’s life at the estate was limited to his quarters and the garden with the main duty of taking care and looking after the flowers. If he didn’t do as he was told he would be sent away to a “special home for the insane” (Kosinski, 8). The maid of the house, Louise brought Chance all of his meals. Chance loves to watch television and is connected with the outside world through it. For him television is reality. After the death of Chance’s benefactor the Old Man, the lawyers who handled the estate asked Chance to leave because there was no record of him living in the house. Hence Chance for the first time is out on the street on his own. Seeing the cars, buildings with his own eyes Chance is unable to handle them and get jammed by a car which hurts his leg. The owner of the car, Elizabeth Rand takes Chance to her house where a doctor is staying with her because of her husband’s illness. Mr. Ben Rand is an important well known businessman who even give the President of the United States advice on how to improve the economy of the country. Until Chance recovered he was allowed to stay with the Rands and they called him Chauncey Gardiner. One day when Chance was having dinner with them, in a discussion he compared Mrs. Rand’s business with a garden and both wife and husband admired Chance for his statement. The only things that Chance could talk about were gardening, plants and flowers. When the President came to pay Mr. Rand a visit, Chance made a statement about the garden when the President asked him for his opinion. Chance said that “as long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well” (Kosinski, 54). The President interpreted Chance’s statement as hope for the US economy. Chance became a public figure days later as the President mentions his name and idea in a public speech. Different newspapers, TV-channels wanted to interview Chauncey Gardiner. After all that a kind of distrust comes up, the President and other high positioned men want background information on Chance’s life, past till present. However they were unable to find information about Chance’s former life.
The movie “Being There” was made based on the success of the book. There are many differences between the movie and the book. The major difference is that the book gives us insight into what Chance is feeling and thinking whereas in the movie we see his actions and Chance appears to be robot-like. In the book as Chance is working in the garden of the Old Man the narrator explains Chance’s feelings on the garden whereas in the movie we can’t tell how Chance is feeling as he has no facial expression. Another example is when Chance changes the channel of the television he feels as if he is changing himself and gets caught up in the different images that he sees. In the movie we find out what he thinks of television when is talking to someone else. Chance’s thoughts help the reader understand his character in the book. In the movie sometimes we are able to tell that Chance is confused in certain social situations but the book provides a reason why he reacts to certain ways to politics, personal questions and sex.
There are other differences between the book and the movie such as the Rand’s doctor duties. In the movie the doctor was like Sherlock Holmes, he investigated Chance to find more information about his past by snooping through Chance’s clothes and looking in his room. The doctor in the book exercises his duties and doesn’t snoop around. Another difference is Chance’s sexual encounter with the homosexual at one of the parties of EE’s friends. In the movie when Chance met the homosexual at Eve’s friends he only asked him if he ever had sex with a man before. The book is more explicit and depicted the gay man pleasuring himself to orgasm while Chance is watching. Chance felt confused about what exactly was happening in that room.
Overall the remaking of “Being There” in the movie form can be considered a success as it allows the audience to be involved by drawing their own conclusions on how Chance is feeling and thinking when he has a blank stare. The book leaves the reader with the impression that the story is about a confused innocent man trying to make it in a new world by telling his struggles and triumph. Whereas the movie leads the reader to believe that the story is a lighthearted comedy about a man who is so connected but yet so disconnected with the world around him.
I believe that we are all molded by the message that the media sends out. For teenagers it shows the expectation of how they should behave and how the parents should respond to such behavior. College students are portrayed as irresponsible party animals which can cloud the judgment of professors or authority figures because they would never trust a college student completely even if he or she had a high GPA. The media has always been involved in any society. For example in the 1920s, known as the Jazz Age and The Roaring Twenties the media brought the American population another way to cope with the horror of world war I and the pent up emotions that was created by the restricted lifestyles. The population was exposed to new dances in Hollywood movies. They would practice those dances to radio broadcasts before going out on the dance floors of nightclubs or school gymnasium. Schools taught dancing to small children, while churches used it to attract young people (The Roaring Twenties). New styles of dances spread among college students such as the “Toddle” which consisted of throwing your arms and legs in the air and hopping or “toddling” every step in the Foxtrot (The Roaring Twenties). But the dance that dominated the 1920s is the Charleston which was introduced by the all black cast Afro-American Broadway musical “Running Wild” (The Roaring Twenties). The media influences our perception of reality. For example the mentality that all Muslim aren’t to be trusted because the media keep constantly blaming them first for bad things even when it’s not even them. Looking at it from an academic standpoint I like the book “Being There”, its language is light and easy to read but it conveys so many messages that are applicable in life.
Kosinski, Jerzy (1970). Being There. New York: Grove Press
The Roaring Twenties (2005). A Historical Snapshot of Life in the 1920s.Web. 24 Apr. 2012. < http://www.1920-30.com/>.