Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sociology of The Rehearsal

I watched all episodes of The Rehearsal. I was quickly drawn into the premise of practicing for uncomfortable interactions. The first episode centered on a person who had told a lie, and held to it for many years, and then decided he wanted to tell the truth to a friend. So he rehearsed the situation with actors. Being made for television, they built a replication of a bar where the interaction would take place. It was ridiculous, but this is television. Most of the subsequent episodes had to do with anticipating what parenthood might be like. There was a woman who wanted to see what it would be like to have a baby who grew up into childhood. And eventually Nathan Fielder inserted himself into the situation to see what it might be like to be a parent. So I watched it as a blend of "practicing for interaction" and "anticipatory socialization." Again, it was ridiculous at times. You can't replicate the emotions you'll feel as a new parent. You can't substitute actors for the children you'd parent. And it was loaded up with unethical elements (I won't spoil the last episode). I don't recall the word "unethical" being used, but the last episode gestured toward the very obvious point that so much of the show was unethical. But we may overlook such things when it's for television.

For much of the show, I wondered what an ethical version of The Rehearsal might be like. That is to say, we do practice for interaction all of the time. Just in a more normal way. It's often backstage, as Goffman would say. We think about what we might say. We anticipate how the interaction might go. We think about how people might respond to what we say, and, in turn, how we might react. I started imagining something like "The Center for Social Interaction" where people would come to talk about uncomfortable interactions that they wanted to practice. But we wouldn't build a set. We would just talk. It wouldn't be therapy, mind you. It would be practicing for interaction in an ethical way. What are the things you are worried about? What are the words you want to use? How might you say it better, or different? How do you think people will respond? How does this all make you feel? Let's talk this through! 

If you need a few different takes on the show, here's one from The New Yorker, and one from The Cut. I haven't read a lot about the show, these were just a few articles I've read while searching for what people had to say. I see the show has been renewed for season two. I'm curious if they'll stick to the formula that gathered viewers and got people talking in the first season. 

Meanwhile, and off screen, people will rehearse for interactions and life situations in their own ways. If you watched The Rehearsal, what did you think? And in what ways do you notice that you practice, or imagine, various kinds of interactions and life situations? 

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