Michael Edwards cogently wrote:
So what's the point? David Blaine is a young man who has made an enormous connection with the public. Apparently there is something about him that makes personal connections as well. Some of these relationships have found their way into the tabloids and newsmagazines...and even onto an internet forum or two. So? The real questions for the conjuring community to ponder are why this troubling -- and troubled -- young man has become one of the most recognized and fascinating of magicians, how his personna has altered the public's perception of magic and magicians, and its implications for the future of the craft.
I would argue that Blaine has made his way into the zeitgeist for many of the same reasons Houdini made it into the headlines in his day (although that is probably the only thing Blaine has in common with The Great Liberator).
Blaine comes along in a time where society apparently has a need for "mysticism," for answers such as those that the con artist John Edward gives. It is a recognized end-of-the century phenomenon that Blaine has been riding, along with our culture's love affair with youth and the young.
Combine that with the fact that magic at large (read, in the popular media) has been moving more and more in a direction of bigger and more outlandish, not to mention more "staged" (see all the Ouellet/Pudney/Jaffe specials, combined with 15 years of Copperfield and Las Vegas becoming the center of all magical performance arenas), then something like this was bound to happen. I thought Harry Anderson might have brought the whole thing down to earth a little more, but he is a little too old to satisfy the media's need for youth, more youth and more youth (see: Spears, Britney; Aguilera, Christina; Moore, Mandy; Sync, N' ).
And, as I wrote before in GENII, along comes Kwai Chang Blaine, who, like Samuel L. Jackson's character in "Pulp Fiction," just "walks the earth," doing card tricks.
Youth of America are jaded, but they also yearn for something "unexplainable." Oh, and "cool." Blaine does not explain. Blaine looks "cool." And he simply stares at people after his performance (see the Rolling Stone article reference, "The Stare.") And he walks away.
Cintra Wilson wrote in Salon
magazine, "There has always been something grimy about magic. Even at its very best, it is a long con. Magic is based on tricks and secrecy, so traditionally, only pathetic, lonely people ever want to lie that much to get attention. Magicians are historically a sorry-assed lot, who keep company with flame-retardant midgets and frog-swallowers." She regularly writes about celebrity and showbusiness, albeit in a jaundiced way.
She basically described Penn & Teller as "old," Ricky Jay as someone with skin like an "old sponge" and likened David Copperfield to Liza Minelli.
Ouch. Not pretty, but maybe to a 20 year old who watches Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Roswell, probably true.
Nature abhors a vacuum. David Blaine fills it.
As for the future: Can we make ourselves relevant in a youth-obsessed age? Will Blaine's star continue to rise or will he be cast aside once he's too old to be cool? Or will he, and ourselves continue to remake our art so we can evolve past the "magic clown," "foofy-guys-with-boxes" image we have built for ourselves.
And can we get a jaded, A.D.D.-afflicted public
to "get it?"
Those are the real questions for our future.