Tag: derren brown
Derren Brown’s The Events comes to an end, and without the much-predicted redaction of his stupid and ignorance-promoting claims in previous episodes. There’s thoughts on the series over all below.
But first Friday’s idiocyfest. Derren Brown was going to beat a roulette wheel. Well, let’s just point out a few things before we get started:
- Any casino in the world would be delighted to be identified and filmed because the publicity and advertising would be superb.
- You can’t make a man give you money and then make him forget he did.
- You can’t guess the speed for a roulette ball and predict where it will fall more accurately than a computer.
- You can’t predict where a ball will land after bouncing off many walls in the first seconds of its being thrown.
- You can’t use triangulation of three fixed objects to calculate the speed of a car.
- You can’t guarantee that a man will not notice that he’s £5,000 short in the bank, and therefore you couldn’t set the trick up the way he claimed to.
So Derren claims that he stole £5,000 from an unwitting stranger, on a programme that begins saying there’s no actors or stooges used. (Which rather raises the question: what is a stooge? As Brown said when he met dear Ben last week on film, he volunteered to be on the show. Are volunteers stooges?) He did this by somehow hypnotising him in about three seconds and then instructing him to visit his bank, withdraw the money, then hand it over. Then erases this from the man’s brain. Because apparently Derren Brown is an evil wizard from space, and we’re supposed to just accept this – surely the most extraordinary feat in the whole episode – as something that just happens every day. He’ll now gamble that money “live” (for some reason he can’t talk directly to Ben when he’s in the casino – which seems strange since it would go some way to proving it wasn’t pre-recorded footage and somewhat undermining the purpose of a live event), and potentially win Ben £180,000.
Once again the episode was a mixture of various nice-enough tricks that had nothing whatsoever to do with the final effect, and Brown bullshitting his face off. Oh, apart from one trick – the ball in the squash court. Where he achieved something equally as impressive as the roulette trick – somehow predicting the path of a spherical object being thrown by someone else by making impossible calculations in split seconds and knowing where on the floor it will come to rest – and threw this away midway through the show as a minor step on the way to his final plan. Which was an odd choice.
But of course he doesn’t manage the final trick! What a way to end the series, eh? The man doesn’t win £180,000, and Brown ends his series on a fail. Except of course nothing of the sort happens.
I realise I’m wasting energy dissecting the third episode of Derren Brown’s The Events to any great depth.
They show a close up of this woman’s eyes and ask people to draw a shape, and then the letter “O” draw itself on the screen as a slowly appearing circle, etc etc. And then, astonishingly, Brown even instructs people who drew concentric circles to text in, as if after doing this people texting this is some sort of useful evidence.
Once again Brown muddles half truths and glimmers of things we’ve experienced with ludicrous over-played nonsense. So we’re expected to believe he can make a man fall asleep and then steal a TV by drinking his tea at the same time, while insultingly claiming the remarkable, verified ability of some blind people to use echolocation to be in any way related. Of course, most of it, were it not in a programme in which the presenter psychotically flipflopped back and forth between declaring his disbelief in psychic powers and announcing things are happening because of psychic powers, would have been fantastic magic tricks. Here it all feels like part of the propaganda that contributes to his crazed misinformation campaign.
A number of people suggested to me after the disgraceful embarrassment of Derren Brown’s lottery Event that this may be part of his building up to something. That he may have gone in this direction for a reason, with the intention of a big reveal at the end of the series.
I wasn’t convinced. His act has always consisted of performing regular magic tricks with the current vogue of mentalism patter over the top. His act has always been about the grand misdirection of stating his effects are achieved through suggestion, hypnotism, and other baloney, while quietly palming the card. He has always implied that there’s something scientifically verifiable about all manner of woo-woo bullshit, while proclaiming his wishes to denounce woo-woo bullshit. This hypocrisy just seemed to reach a new, grotesque depth with the lottery episode, promoting utter rubbish like automatic writing, and talking complete and utter nonsense about statistics.
But then this week’s episode, so stark-ravingly stupefying, has gone some way toward convincing me that these optimistic people might be right. Because at one point this evening Brown uttered the words, “the energy”.
I know, I know, I witter on about Derren Brown far too much. And I’m going to repeat myself here. But I feel as though I’m circling around the plughole into which I’ll finally plop down with exactly what I want to say about the man.
I’ve gone on before (but a long time ago) about the difference between a magician tricking you, and lying to you. But to quickly reiterate: Magicians aren’t telling the truth, clearly. If I tell you I’ve written a prediction in an envelope, or that I’m producing a ball from your ear, I’m tricking you. It’s not true. But you know that. You know that I’m not psychic, hopefully you don’t believe that anyone is psychic. In fact, the very worst outcome imaginable would be for my trick to legitimise the conmen and charlatans who will steal your money. So instead we enter into this contract. You know I’m not going to tell you the truth, and you’re going to be okay with that. However, this opens an interesting door. How big a lie can I tell?
Say my trick is to know the word someone in the audience is thinking of. If I tell you that I’m not using a stooge in the audience, and I’m using a stooge in the audience, is that okay? The effect is very impressive if I can appear to somehow know the word an unwitting audience member is thinking of. It’s rather extraordinarily less impressive if I can know the word my friend and I agreed on before the show. So we seem to have a rule in this contract that says that while I’ll deceive you, trick you, I won’t openly lie to you about the conditions of the trick.
Now, clearly magicians do. Lazy, tedious magicians do this all the time. But I think most people agree that if they learn this is how a magician achieves his effects – says he doesn’t use camera tricks but does use camera tricks – they lose all interest in them. So we have this muddled set of rules. They’re impossible to pin down, but crudely it’s, 1) the audience agrees to be deceived, and 2) the magician agrees to not tell specific sorts of lies.
Derren Brown has made his career out of exploiting the ambiguity of this. He spins these patters about influencing people’s minds, conditioning, and suggestion. It’s all patter to disguise doing what I think is a perfectly ordinary magic trick. Which is fine, whatever, who cares? It’s a neat way of achieving a great effect.