Coleridge said that some people tend to reject “the fantastic” out of hand, and that to engage them in a story about magic, fairies, goblins, etc., which they would otherwise dismiss as “foolishness” and “childishness,” one had to create a character that was believable and interesting enough that they would want to know what happens to him/her, and will “suspend disbelief in the impossible” for a time in order to follow the adventures of the character. They essentially leave reality in their minds and “run off to join the circus” of the fantasy.
I think that the magical character can do this as well. The magician creates a fantasy character that is engaging enough and safe enough for people to let down their defenses and be led into a series of fantastic and unbelievable events. They feel safe, knowing they have played this sort of game with others and with actors before. But when they return from their adventures, they have little bits of evidence and proof that everything really had happened the way they remembered it–a flower from the future, ZuZu’s petals.
The key is that the magic character has to spend actual real time with real people. So a character that is interesting and magical in fiction, might not work as well with a live audience.
People may not want 20 minutes of face time with Voldemort, while they might love to spend such time with Harry Potter. The sort of people who would want to share a beer with Indiana Jones, might find twenty minutes of conversation with Sherlock Holmes unbearable. The sort of person for whom twenty minutes with Holmes wouldn’t be enough, might find talking to a tormented, vigilante like Batman off-putting.
We need to design a character that is attractive and interesting for people to spend close time with, and that appeals to the type of audience we want to engage. I loved Tom Baker’s Dr. Who, because he winked at the audience like a magician, cuing them that he knew the whole thing was silly, too. The super-serious Whos were not as much fun. The multi-layered reality is more sophisticated and more interactive.
I am bored with the performance of magic that makes it as real and believable as possible, even if the claim must be reduced.
I want magic that is unbelievable, fantastic! Stuff that appeals to the nine year old spirit of discovery and adventure. Something with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but leaving a lasting memory of the impossible that feels like it was real.
I don’t want to be a magician that studies his “art” for years and years, I want a magic wand I can zap things with, and that if you had it, you could zap things, too.