x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

I only like the realistic parts of Games of Thrones

If possible, I try to avoid anything that requires imagination, writes Rob Long

Years ago, when I was walking out of the movie theatre after seeing Jurassic Park, I turned to my brother and said, “That movie was so fake. You could tell those weren’t real dinosaurs”.

I was kidding, of course, but the joke was lost on the people behind me. They were fans, I suppose, of the special-effects in the movie and were compelled to interject themselves into our conversation.

“Excuse me, but I don’t think you got the movie,” one of them said in an irritated tone. “The dinosaurs had to be fake. Because there are no more dinosaurs in real life.” The other one added: “Don’t you have an imagination?”

They clearly were taking their movies too seriously, but their major point was correct: I don’t really have an imagination. I have what people call a “concrete mind”, which either is or isn’t the same as saying my mind is full of concrete, depending on how you feel about fake dinosaurs in a movie.

If something isn’t real – or realistic – I have a hard time enjoying it. I can’t get into fantasy tales or flights of science fiction. My imagination – or lack of it – just doesn’t bend that far. Events in a movie or book have to be somewhat plausible for me to stay interested. If it seems made up or unmoored from reality, my brain just shuts off. There’s probably a deeply unflattering psychoanalytic reason for this, but rather than try to figure it out, I just avoid anything that requires “imagination”.

As long as, say, HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones sticks to storylines that focus on powerful people who want to cut each other’s heads off, I’m totally into it. That kind of thing rings true to me.

In my experience, powerful people – in both the mythical world of the series and my very realistic world of Hollywood – think about very little else. I was on the phone with that kind of person just this morning. I can assure you, decapitating his enemies is exactly what he wants to do, whether he’s in a steel and glass office tower or wandering around in some fantasy realm in tights and fur cloak.

The trouble arises when the show veers into what some call the “world of the imagination” and what I call “crazytown”. Every now and then a dragon appears, breathing fire and wreaking devastation, to which I can only yawn and get up to get myself a snack and hope the dragon is gone by the time I return. Dragons don’t exist. Psychopathic, power-mad maniacs do.

In other words, I don’t really believe in the idea of fiction. The stories I like best are non-fiction, just the kind of non-fiction that somebody made up.

And yet, recently I’ve found myself indulging in flights of imagination. Maybe I’m just getting older.

For instance, there’s a giant puddle in front of my house. It runs along the entire side of the street. There’s a leak somewhere in the water main, the neighbours and I think, and the result is a street-long river about one metre wide at its widest – which gravity has decreed is directly in front of my house

Several times a day, I have to cross that river – taking the dog for a walk, running out for a cup of coffee, that sort of thing – and it’s too wide to just step over, but not quite wide enough that it’s worth going all the way around, so what I do is leap.

I leap across the puddle. I stand on the kerb and push myself off and for a few moments, several times a day, I’m leaping across the water and feeling like, well, like Superman. When the dog is with me, and we both jump across it together, it’s like we’re Superman and Superdog, which is about a zillion times more cool.

I know this is ridiculous. I’m not into superheroes, clearly, because they’re not real, but still: it’s a small act of physical mastery and it gives me a positive jolt every time I do it. It’s a lot like those times when I’m boarding a small plane – the kind you have to cross the tarmac to get to, the kind with the steps that roll up to it – and it’s impossible not to feel, when you stride to the plane and jog up the airplane stairs, exactly like James Bond.

Who I am not, along with not being Superman. I’m the non-fiction version of myself. I know that. Still, it’s nice every so often to get an idea of what it feels like to be a fictional, made-up version, to be the product of an imagination instead of a concrete mind. It’s nice to have a couple of seconds each day when I feel like I can do anything.

Eventually, of course, the city is going to figure out the source of the leak and stop it. It’s been a few months, so time is on my side. And when it’s gone, I’ll miss it. Maybe even enough to rethink my position on dragons and superheroes.

Or not. Maybe I’ll just stay on the lookout for other small things to leap over.

Rob Long is a writer and producer based in Hollywood

On Twitter: @rcbl