November 29, 2014

Individuality And Personhood

Girl-Before-A-Mirror-THA friend of mine, a cinephile, a lover of the cinema in the very best sense of that phrase, commented to me once about what he saw as a difference between the films of the 40s and the 50s and those made ‘Oh, after about 1978′. The characters in the earlier films had neuroses, whereas the characters in the later films had ‘lifestyles’. I believe the catalyst for this conversation was the broadcast of a TV movie that caused a minor stir during the early 1980s called The Day After. It was a dramatization about a surprise nuclear attack on the United States by the Soviet Union, and the aftermath of that attack. About one third of the first episode was dedicated to the pre-apocalyptic lives of some ordinary Americans in order to build audience empathy for them in preparation for the horror that was to follow. What this meant was that we, the audience, had to suffer through about twenty minutes of watching self-absorbed people shopping, having sex, and quarreling about what they should buy or who they should have sex with. My friend commented that it was no wonder the Russians nuked us. They probably thought it was a mercy killing. ‘They didn’t kill a single person,’ he said. ‘Just a lot of individuals.’

That off-hand remark has stuck with me all these years. Most of the criticisms I have heard of American society and even of American church life congregate around two foci; first, that it is too individualistic, and second, that it is too impersonal. At first glance, these two remarks appear to be contradictory, somewhat like the great Chalcedonian adverbs, until you meditate on the difference between an individual and a person. We are all of us born into this world as individuals, but it is a struggle to become a person in the image of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. There is a lot of deep anthropology here, and some of the most interesting recent Orthodox theology deals with the concept of the human Person, what does it mean to have a hypostasis, and to participate in communion with other hypostases? Now, I know know know know know that IM is to some degree an Asperger sufferer’s theology board and any theological statement an amateur like me will make is subject to endless qualification and amendment, but here goes. The names of Met. John Zizoulas and Fr. John S. Romanides are the two names most often associated with this current of theology, which goes by the name of Neo-Chalcedonian both among the Orthodox and those outside of Orthodoxy who are aware of it, even though Neo-Chalcedonian is properly a label of a pair of sixth century Fathers who defended the council of Chalcedon against the Justinian Monothelite compromise.

Only in Orthodoxy could someone from the sixth century be considered Neo-anything.

Anyway, I am aware of two popularizers of this strand of theology.  One, who speaks mostly to non-Orthodox, is  Fr. Stephen Freeman,  a convert priest from Tennessee who has written some intriguing posts about the True Self and the False Self and which is the self that Jesus Christ actually saves. This makes sense to me. Fr. Stephen, in as far as I can follow him, makes the remark that most of us live from day to day in the reality of the ego, which is a construct of what the Fathers call the logismoi, the fleeting contradictory and opposing thoughts that bubble through our minds like the carbon dioxide in a fizzy drink. The ego’s priority is to defend itself in a hostile psychological environment – to justify itself, to prove its value, to keep is elf from submersion in stronger egos or extinction. In an extraordinary admission, Fr. Stephen goes so far to say that the ego, the false Self, needs an Enemy. having no source or center of identity within itself, it creates a false identity by identifying error and proclaiming that ‘I am not that’. Thus, the opposites of the great Chalcedonian adverbs – confusion, change, division, and separation, come more and more to define and control our interior lives.

I am going to go so far as to say this: I think the central pathology of that strand of Evangelical Protestantism that arose in the Great Awakenings in this country is that it is attempting to save this false self rather than putting it to death in baptism then resurrecting and nourishing the True Self which is being made over daily in the image of Christ in God. Now, I realize that is a big loud statement from The King Of Sinners, the Emperor of the Passions,  but I’m not the only one who’s saying it.

A second popularizer of Neo-Chalcedonian Orthodox theology is a priest from Greece named Philostheos Faros who wrote a book with the delightful, no-nightsoil title of Functional and Dysfunctional ChristianityFr. Philostheos spent about twenty years in the United States and his critique of Anglo-Saxon culture and the Christianity which produced it is not for Church Ladies of either gender.  I was tempted to reproduce a portion of it here, but it may not go down well with those who think that the penal substitutionary model and the imputed righteousness of the active and passive obedience of Christ is the Gospel, which is just about everybody here including those who invited me to write and Mike Spencer of blessed memory.  It also wouldn’t go down well with those who are unaccustomed to the unvarnished language Greeks use when there aren’t any non-Greeks present.  As someone who has experienced Greek parish life at its best and at its worst, I can tell you that I am not speaking rhetorically.   As caustic as Fr. Philostheos is in describing Western Christianity, he saves his real vitriol for his fellow Orthodox who, he says, should know better.

Apart from my obvious convert’s joy in reading Fr. Philos’ book, which felt a lot like watching Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained, I took away an interesting nugget.  The word ekklesia was not minted to describe the Christian Church.  It was a pre-Christian Greek word used to describe the meeting of the polis, in which the citizen participated and through which human energies could be synergistically channeled for the common benefit.  The polis is where the citizen acquired a prosopón, a personhood.  An individual (idiotés), says Fr. Philos, is defined by his competition with other individuals.  The person (prosopón) is defined in communion with other persons.  For the pagan pre-Christan Greeks, this was a reference to their common participation in the civic life of the polis.  The individual becomes a person through participation in the family, in the tribe, and finally, in the polis.  When Christianity came to the Greeks, the idea of the ekklesia of the polis came by extension to refer to the life of the Church, which was the truest factory of persons, where an individual was called to participate in the very inner life of the Most Holy Trinity, where the distinctions are the widest yet the unity is the deepest.

Now, I’m not really making a plea to allow Orthodoxy to save the West.    I want to see if it will save me first.  But I am frightened, terrified, that the legal-economic golem the West has unleashed upon the world and which appears to proceed from strength to strength will eventually succeed in devouring every possible wellspring of our personhood and leave us in sterile anonymous isolation, crying out for each other through official descriptions and caressing each other only through the mediation of counsel.

Comments

  1. “I think the central pathology of that strand of Evangelical Protestantism that arose in the Great Awakenings in this country is that it is attempting to save this false self rather than putting it to death in baptism then resurrecting and nourishing the True Self which is being made over daily in the image of Christ in God. Now, I realize that is a big loud statement from The King Of Sinners, the Emperor of the Passions, but I’m not the only one who’s saying it.”

    Amen!

    You are exactly right.

    St. Paul says as much in Romans. And Luther parroted him.

    You are in good company, my friend.

    • + 1

      The false self is a bastard of a Tar Baby.

      T

    • And the central pathology of Orthodoxy is its worship of brute power, whether of the Byzantine emperors or Vladimir Putin. The Council of Chalcedon was one such power-play, which resulted in Byzantine Christianity excommunicating itself from the historic Church represented by the Copts and Armenians.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Orthodox Church has a long history of being the faithful lapdog of the State. Comes from all those centuries of patronage under the Caesars of the Eastern Roman Empire. While the Church in the West was going through Road Warrior without the cars or gas, the Church in the East was the State Church of a stable Empire. Instead of survival and governing (as the only legal authority left), its bishops were free to develop more and more elaborate liturgy and devotions, until they became very insular.

  2. Marilynne Robinson in her essays touches upon similar themes, Chaplain Mike. Her recent two books of essays deal with how modern society is on a path of devaluing and minimizing the incredible complexity and depth of human personhood. Although to her, the main culprit is “scientism” and how personhood has been reduced to being just another technical and scientific system to study. Just pull a level here and add a few chemicals there, and everything is fixed.

    But you make raise a more interesting point. The ways things are now, we only see people in purely economic and legal terms. Political rights, civil rights, economic rights, such is the language we use nowadays to discuss the pressing problems of our day. Yet in reality, our problems are much more deeper, and much more profound, than simply that. It is a worrying development to say the least…

  3. Marcus Johnson says:

    A friend of mine, a cinephile, a lover of the cinema in the very best sense of that phrase, commented to me once about what he saw as a difference between the films of the 40s and the 50s and those made ‘Oh, after about 1978?. The characters in the earlier films had neuroses, whereas the characters in the later films had ‘lifestyles’.

    Not to make a total digression, but has your friend ever heard of Woody Allen?

    • Christiane says:

      LOL

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And to further confuse the issue, “lifestyle” has also come to have a sexual connotation, usually kinky.

    • I agree with this assessment up to a point. This is why I find many of the movies from the 50’s and 60’s so insufferably boring. TCM plays a lot of stuff that isn’t out on DVD (and no wonder!) that helps me to realize how insufferably self-absorbed the neurotic characters were. Only a few manage to transcend the ennui and pass into something worth watching. I think it is fun to compare movies like “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” from the different eras. Completely different set of problems even though the set-up is the same.

  4. Mule, your writing on the word “ekklesia” made for an interesting start to my day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to telephone the four pastors that I know whom have named their churches “Ekklesia” to see if they really know the historical roots of the word…

    • Ah yes, the trendiness of exotic sounding brand names from foreign languages. Your four friends must not be Scottish, else they may have gone with “Kirk.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Isn’t “Kirk” also the term used by that cult in Moscow, Idaho?

        • No, though I believe some of their affiliates do. And Douglas Wilson does have a book entitled “Mother Kirk.” I believe it was recommended reading by Michael Spencer.

  5. The word ekklesia was not minted to describe the Christian Church. It was a pre-Christian Greek word used to describe the meeting of the polis, in which the citizen participated and through which human energies could be synergistically channeled for the common benefit. The polis is where the citizen acquired a prosopón, a personhood. An individual (idiotés), says Fr. Philos, is defined by his competition with other individuals. The person (prosopón) is defined in communion with other persons. For the pagan pre-Christan Greeks, this was a reference to their common participation in the civic life of the polis. The individual becomes a person through participation in the family, in the tribe, and finally, in the polis. When Christianity came to the Greeks, the idea of the ekklesia of the polis came by extension to refer to the life of the Church, which was the truest factory of persons, where an individual was called to participate in the very inner life of the Most Holy Trinity, where the distinctions are the widest yet the unity is the deepest.

    But can’t the argument be made that ekklesia was chosen – including by Jesus in Matthew – because it was the LXX word for qahal? I.e., ekklesia’s meaning is more informed by the Old Testament congregation/community concept than the Greek civic gathering.

    • Fr. Philos makes the point that the concept of the polis was the single most important contribution by the Greeks to the common patrimony of humanity, as well as the cornerstone of Hellenism. The movement of revelation from Hebrew into Greek meant that the absorption of ‘qahal’ into ‘ekklesia’ required the ‘divinization’ of both words.

      Its hard to be dogmatic about how much Greek Our Lord and His apostles spoke or understood, but I don’t think they were unaware of the rich semantic loam that covered the word they adopted for the new polity birthed into the world at Pentecost.

      • Kittel’s Theological Dictionary seems to debate the extent of the influence of qahal on ekklesia, versus the Greek usage, but I don’t know how the debate has progressed since Kittel.

    • If you happen to wonder why first-century Jewish believers—all of whom saw themselves as the fulfillment of the assembly and congregation (qahal) of Israel in Jesus the Messiah—ended up using the Greek word ekkl?sia instead of synag?g? as the most common name for their church, I think I can tell you. They did so first of all because they were intimately familiar with the Greek of the LXX (perhaps even more so than with the Hebrew Scriptures); and second, they did so because even before their life as the ekkl?sia got going, the alternative Greek word synag?g? had already been used as the name of an existing institution within Judaism.

      (Capon, The Fingerprints of God, chapt. 1)

  6. Brilliant. Great meditation. Thanks for posting.

  7. Thanks for such a bold post, Mule. Sticking your neck out like this may invite criticism, but it also invites those of us who fully agree to come out of the shadows.
    Fr. Albert Haas, a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, has also written on the True Self/False Self. There are voices in our American culture/church speaking this truth, but you have to listen closely to hear them/find them because their message is counter to what most want to hear.
    We’ve become so sloppy in our use of language that in everyday conversation “individual” & “person” are used interchangeably as though they mean the same thing. It’s so helpful to have these distinctions drawn.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And “Global Replace String ‘man’ with string ‘person'” of “gender-neutral inclusive language” sure doesn’t clarify things.

  8. Marcus Johnson says:

    On a more serious note than my previous comment, I think that when we see what currently passes for “conversion experiences” in most Christian church communities does not reflect the “death to self” that is central to the gospel. I see assimilation, a trading of one worldview for another, an adoption of a new set of practices and social mores, but there is no death. Whether or not the historical and etymological discussion above resonates with anyone, the observational evidence is pretty evident within a lot of churches, even those that do not claim to be evangelical.

    • That is a very deep thought. I’m off to chew for a bit. And thanks, Mule, for the post.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi MARCUS,
      I thought a long time time about your reflection concerning “the “death to self” that is central to the gospel”.

      On another blog, in response to this quote by C.S. Lewis,
      ( “What we see when we think we are looking into the depths of Scripture may sometimes be only the reflection of our own silly faces.”
      I wrote something that I believe was partially inspired by your reflection, this:

      ‘Pride, the greatest sin, lies deep within our DNA and we are weakened greatly by it . . . we must LET the sacred Scriptures read us, and give to us, and we must humbly receive the gift of God’s Word, without the intrusion of our own weakness into the bargain:

      “The infernal serpent; he it was
      whose guile, Stirr’d up with envy and revenge,
      deceived The mother of mankind.”

      (John Milton – ‘Paradise Lost’ )

      We must remember that it is not our old selves we want God to save, we want to die to that self, and be reborn in Christ . . . and pride of ‘self’ can have no place of honor in the reborn human soul, our consequence comes now from Christ Himself. We can say ‘no longer I but Christ Who lives within me’, and in that light, the sacred Scriptures can come to us as they were meant to come, not as a puzzle for us to solve, but as nourishing light for the journey of pilgrim sojourners through a world where without the Word of God, there is only the darkness.’

  9. cermak_rd says:

    Elizabeth Dreschler (over at religious dispatches) writes about the religiously unaffiliated and their spiritual journeys and experiences. What she’s discovered is that these folk are finding spiritual fulfillment via what she calls the 4 fs, family, friends, Fido, and food. These are mainly about social activities that take people away from radical individualism. Even the food as spiritual experience can be something like making Grandma’s meatballs or Nana’s spaetzle.

    Could it be that these folk are navigating the modern world and finding a middle ground between the cloud of witnesses and radical individualism?

  10. I’m certain this is not an original thought, but I can’t recall where I read or heard it. If salvation involves becoming like God (“theosis”), it also involves becoming more human since God has taken on human nature. That’s quite a thought, but it doesn’t really have a place in the forensic paradigm of western/evangelical theology.

  11. Robert F says:

    I wonder where such a schemata for the transition of individuals into persons by way of identifying the supposed false self would leave those with limited intellectual faculties, my Down Syndrome sister-in-law, for instance. It would be naive to believe that she, by virtue of some supposedly ennobling, but actually dehumanizing, innocence that the intellectually challenged are sometimes attributed by the…..unchallenged (?)…..would somehow still be in direct contact with the pure center of her personhood in a way that the developmentally “normal” would not; I know her well enough to know that she is capable of selfishness, pettiness, falseness, in a word, all the manifestations that above are attributed to the false self, and I see no evidence that she has any more contact with the pure personhood than I do. So, do we say then that she, like most of us, is not fully a person, and must grow into personhood by the above sketched process and must go through the death of her false self? I’m not sure she could grasp the concepts discussed above; she believes in Jesus, and looks to him for her salvation and life. But the idea that God is only redeeming her real self, which has nothing to do with the false self which she is in the grip of, how would I even begin to make sense out of that to her? And if it’s not necessary for her to understand this to share completely in the life of God, then why is it necessary for any of us?

    Why does this concept of the true versus the false self make me so uncomfortable in regard to salvation, particularly in relation to her and others like her? Because it suggests that she and others like her, along with the rest of us, are not fully persons, and the idea that the developmentally and intellectually challenged are not persons is an idea that we who love them have had to fight hard against; this ingrained prejudice makes their lives more difficult and fragile and imperiled than they already are.

    I’ll stick with the idea that we are all conceived and born as persons, that the self in all its imperfection, that face that we present to the world as well as the face we hide, are all related to a single person who shall be redeemed in her entirety, from the surface down to the deepest depths, because there is truth in our being both at the surface and at the deepest depths, and falsehood as well; in fact, the depths are full of mendacity.
    That’s what it means when the Bible says…” the heart is deceitful above all things…”

    • +1

      I believe that who your sister-in-law really is (her true self) is defined by her relationship with Jesus. It is the same for us all.

    • Robert F says:

      I might add a note from my own personal experience: for five years, I undertook rigorous zazen under the direction of Zen teachers with the intent of seeing into my “true nature,” which is how the Zen Buddhists talk about a true versus false self. In all that time, I can tell you that I never caught sight of the sucker, only the the hind partsof my psyche disappearing around the next corner as I tried to chase myself down, always turning another corner to have myself both escaping myself and staring me down from an infinity of different directions.

      To quote Gertrude Stein, “there is no there there.” Myself exists with, and is redeemed by, God; if I seek him, I will find myself in him. My heart needs redemption as much as my superficial ego.

      • I am sure you are aware that Orthodoxy has many mentally challenged saints, as well as some who may have been clinically mentally ill.

        You can see the Down’s Syndrome kids kissing the icons. They’ll never crack a volume of Keil and Delitzsch, and maybe they’ll have an easier time because of it.

        • Robert F says:

          I don’t question that there are saintly people of various capacities who lived and live within the EO Church; I do question their relationship to the above outlined true self/ false self schemata.

        • Christiane says:

          Hi MULE,

          yes, I think you are right about Down Syndrome kids . . .

          I have a treasured photograph of my son (who happens to have Down Syndrome) receiving his first holy communion. . . . He’s smiling.

        • Mule – could you give a very brief rundown of names (saints) to whom you’re referring?

          I’d like to do some more reading, and I know just about zip re. EO saint. (Excepting Cyril and Methodius and a few others – I did a bunch of elective in Russian history and lit when I was in undergrad, so a very few names are familiar to me.)

  12. Mule,

    Thanks for the post. It got me thinking again about personhood, personality, and who we REALLY are. I’ve pondered these things based on certain life experiences. I am a person who had a certain personality growing up due in large part to a physical condition. Now, as a mid-aged adult who is diagnosed and on medication, my personality is VERY different. People who knew me as a young adult hardly recognize me as the same person.

    I also have an aunt who, in her late sixties, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm that wiped out her old personality. The woman we all knew is gone. The only continuity from her old life is that she very quickly recognized her relationship with Jesus. This new person is still a devout Christian.

    These sorts of things lead me to ask, who are we really? I think the self we recognize is much more shallow than we realize. I believe that who we really are (like my aunt) can only be defined in relationship to God and by extension, each other.

    • will f. says:

      TPD What a great story, so exciting…thank you. You should expand on your aunt’s story somewhere somehow…

  13. Josh in FW says:

    Great post! So much to chew on here. I’m definitely going to have to come back to this one when I have more time.

  14. Mule – a most intriguing post, and one that requires some background research on my part, I’m thinking.

    As for “true self” and “false self,” I think the concepts come from psych literature, no? At least, that’s where I’ve run across them, and I’m wondering if Fr. Freeman has a background in psychology and/or psychiatry?

    Also, re. your friend’s comment on neuroses vs. lifestyles, it gave me a chuckle, but I must disagree… although there are some 40s-50s movies that seem to have a lot of Freudian (or, at very least, highly angst-ish) background. (Mostly film noir, though “Laura” certainly fits the bill, and it’s not quite in the genre.)

    I remember watching that early 80s nuclear holocaust TV movie – Newsweek (or maybe it was time?) had a 3-pager (or so) on it, and made much of the fact that cockroaches survive – there was even a close-up! I had just moved to a locale where roaches were a very real problem, and I was in the middle of my own semi-nuclear war against them, so… that pic didn’t give me much hope of winning!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      After 20+ years growing up in the Cold War era, I made a point to NOT watch The Day After. After 15-20 years of Post-holocaust Dystopias, Intellectual lectures on the Utter Certainty of Human Extinction in the Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War, and the Gospel According to Hal Lindsay/Christians For Nuclear War, I had to look towards preserving what sanity I had left.

      I DO remember hearing multiple nuclear detonations from the apartment above mine between 60-90 minutes into the broadcast.

  15. Robert F says:

    It’s a good thing your not making a plea for allowing Orthodoxy to save the West, because it’s having a hard enough time trying to save the East (read Russia) and the places where it used to thrive a little further west (such as Greece); it doesn’t seem to be up to the task in those places, so it is probably best to remain humble, as you have, about its chances of saving the West, where it is after all one denomination among many.

    • Save Russia and Greece?! They’re part of the problem!

      It sickens me that the evangelicals can’t see the Orthodox for what they are, despite regular news coverage given to anti-gay riots, sycophantic behavior towards Putin, the big Greek scandal, etc. When church leaders join the Greek neo-Nazis, will their Western fellow-travelers be the slightest bit ashamed?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Orthodox Church has always had a tradition of bowing down before secular power, whether to the Caesars in Constantinople or the Tsars in Moscow.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I think it comes from their centuries of protection and patronage as the state religion of the Eastern Roman Empire. While the bishops of the Western Church were dealing with a Road Warrior situation (where often the bishop was the only remaining legal authority), the Eastern Church developed more and more elaborate liturgies and devotions (and played politics) without interruption.

          • Robert F says:

            Wexel,

            There is no way back into a pure, orthodox past, and there is no escape from the isolated, lonely, alienated self that Mule describes as “golem”; rather, there is a way, or ways, forward through the lonely, isolated modern self/postmodern selves. This way/ these ways takes as its/take as their starting point(s) that very condition of loneliness and alienation and incorporates it into a more comprehensive and multifaceted embodiment of the self than has ever been able to exist before in the history and pre-history of the human race, with rare proleptic exceptions, the most obvious and complete being Jesus. It does no good to label what is really an great achievement of the human psyche as a kind of monster that needs to die: rather, it should be received a sibling to be loved and taken with us on the further journey that God has set out ahead of us.

      • It is pretty clear that Evangelicals never turn around and see the news coverage of themselves [burning Korans, protesting at funerals, summoning Hurricanes, …] or of their patron State [holding prisoners without charges or trials – and tormenting them sexually and with dogs invaliding other nations based on fabricated evidence, spying on the embassies of their allies, writing off the debts of the wealthy when they screw up but sending police to toss the poor out of their homes and slashing funding for schools and food-aid].

        They’d throw many fewer stones if they did.

        Evangelicalism is having a terrible time saving the West.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I believe the catalyst for this conversation was the broadcast of a TV movie that caused a minor stir during the early 1980s called The Day After. It was a dramatization about a surprise nuclear attack on the United States by the Soviet Union, and the aftermath of that attack. About one third of the first episode was dedicated to the pre-apocalyptic lives of some ordinary Americans in order to build audience empathy for them in preparation for the horror that was to follow. What this meant was that we, the audience, had to suffer through about twenty minutes of watching self-absorbed people shopping, having sex, and quarreling about what they should buy or who they should have sex with.

    And thus we have a storytelling problem. How to build sympathy and audience identification with an anonymous Red Shirt before killing them off. Get them to be more than just a walk-on with the audience so their death has some impact.

    Babylon-5 could spend a season on a minor plot arc with a minor-character Star Fury pilot before killing him off in an encounter with the Shadows.

    Game of Thrones could spend three seasons with the audience getting to know the entire House Stark before their mass murder in the Red Wedding. (“House Lannister sends their regards.”)

    But The Day After is a one-shot movie, so all the audience identification/characterization has to be done in less than an hour. And the scope and subject mean they have to do this with a LOT of what are effectively walk-on Red Shirts, all at once.

    So they take the quick and dirty (and cheap) way out. In the words of Orson Scott Card, “They take a cardboard character, dump them into bed with another cardboard character, show them having cardboard sex, and call it ‘Character Development’.”

    Compounded by the fact that The Day After, like its late Fifties predecessor On the Beach, is an Important Message Film (TM), to be spoken of only in Hushed Tones of Reverent Awe. So not only do you get bad “Character Development”, you get PRETENTIOUS Bad “Character Development”.

    • >So they take the quick and dirty (and cheap) way out. In the words of Orson Scott Card,
      > “They take a cardboard character, dump them into bed with another cardboard
      >character, show them having cardboard sex, and call it ‘Character Development’.”

      That is a serious down-side of getting older. Now that I’ve absorbed so much media …. media is less absorbing. I don’t see characters, I see “character development”. Somewhere in there is some parallel to individual vs. person; and perhaps the absorption of media subtly changes the dynamic of how we perceive the real individuals/persons around us.

      It certainly makes movies less fun; it was much easier to be captivated at 20 than it is at 40. Now the experience is punctuated with the jarring thought “oh, this is trope A with a splash of trope C – they are trying to mandate to me that I care about this character”