Re-reactions

“I’ve found that one of the pleasures and terrors of writing for an audience is that the book that someone reads is never quite the book you wrote.” – John Green

When 8 different directors set out to make 8 different films, which were then nominated for this year’s Best Picture for the Academy Awards, I’m sure they weren’t purposefully gearing up for yet another all-white Oscar show. Sure, they could have been intentional about not making their own films predominantly white, but this derived big picture was not on their minds.

When Donald Trump decided to have three adolescent girls perform a dance at his most recent rally, I’m sure his perception of the general public’s reaction was much different than the actual general public’s reaction (though exactly how he failed to see what we saw remains a mystery).

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And yet it is still a surprise to the actor when that opposite reaction pops up.

 This happens all the time in improv. The things that happen on stage are instantaneous; there isn’t a long, arduous process behind each scene, deciding whether a joke is PC enough for its audience — a line just pops into your head, you say it, and then you and your scene partner must make of it what you will. Sometimes that heat-of-the-moment line works perfectly; other times, it falls flat; and on the rare, awkward occasion, the entire room goes silent, and the air fills with the audience’s electric incredulity of what just happened. But the majority of the time, the performers don’t actually condone what their characters are doing. The line is meant to trigger a response. Just maybe not the response they expected.

I actually find it kind of nice that people react differently than I expect them to. The specific way that they react may not always be nice, but the fact that people are still able to surprise me is often refreshing. It’s a really cool thought that people’s circumstances and personalities and mental capacities drive them to disagree with one another. We aren’t all on the same wavelength, and that’s okay! The world would become a very stagnant place if we were.

But what I’ve been trying to work on as of late is my reaction to the reactions of those around me. My re-reaction. Analysis: is this a situation in which getting offended would actually benefit anyone? Will my retaliation stretch someone’s worldview, or only agitate it? There are definitely some circumstances in which speaking your mind is a good thing; but inversely, there are moments where you could quite possibly make matters worse. This is not to say that honesty isn’t important; but there is a certain amount of tactical effort involved in the construction of community.

It’s a lesson in being comfortable with the way you fit into your surroundings. I can be a socially anxious person, so I tend to take people’s reactions to me far too seriously. So I’m working on reacting positively to negative reactions. I’m working on being okay with someone not being okay with me. It’s not the end of the world for heads to butt, but it is certainly better if you know how to patch things up afterwards.

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