By Mike McMahan
I've seen actors say in interviews that comedy is harder than drama. It always seemed counter-intuitive to me, but I have never acted. But if that is true, Sacha Baron Cohen must have the best acting chops in the world. He absolutely destroyed as Borat and Bruno; when I read that he had agreed to star as late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, I thought he would be perfect. An experienced actor who even looked like Mercury. But then, I never heard anything else about it.
However, now that Baron Cohen is promoting his new movie The Brothers Grimsby, and he explained to Howard Stern what happened to the Freddie Mercury movie. Turns out he wanted to deliver a movie about the debauched rock 'n' roll lifestyle, while the surviving members of Queen wanted something tamer, PG-rated and inspiring. But I really enjoyed Baron Cohen's explanation that “The problem is — and I think it’s with any biopic, and I fully understand why Queen wanted to do this — if you’re in control of your rights and your life story, why wouldn’t you depict yourself as great as possible?”
Great question. The funny thing is that in all likelihood every single person reading this article is in control of those two things (if I have any famous readers drop me a line...). One of the premises of Narrative Therapy is that we often see our life as a story, even though we don't realize it, something I've addressed before. Baron Cohen's quote is a perfect way of thinking about life succinctly, and a great attitude to have when beginning to ask ourselves some of the questions about what might be holding us back.
When I am working with a client and using a narrative perspective, I will try to work with them to identify who or what is the antagonist (or villain) in their story. It might be someone in their life. It might be drugs or alcohol. Or, even more likely, a combination of many things. But once that antagonist is established and we're working together to create a narrative, it becomes a question of altering the life story in order to either "defeat" the antagonist or, perhaps more realistically, learn coping skills and ways to deal with perceived problems caused by the antagonist. Many factors can shape this therapeutic journey. Sometimes it may involve perceiving yourself (or your "character") in a different way, and perhaps identify strengths that you didn't recognize or weren't fully applying.
But as you make that journey, whether or not you make it with a therapist, what Sacha Baron Cohen said: "...if you're in control of your life story, why wouldn't you depict yourself as great as possible?"
Mike McMahan is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture