Art imitates life… or life imitates art… It’s a classic conundrum however you look at it. And by classic I mean the class of the chicken-and-egg variety. But what did come first? The dragon or the dragon’s egg? The garden or the garden gnome? Can we ever know for sure?
Mimesis or Anti-Mimesis
As a professional maker-upper-of-things, the questions around life imitating art or art imitating life are fun to consider and ponder. The truth is that when I make things up, I do look at what happens in life. The result is that life is clearly informing my work. So, yes, I do imitate life in art. Plato, Aristotle, and the followers of the mimesis argument can be happy. Woohoo!
For example, let’s consider an episode of Transformers Rescue Bots I wrote several years ago called Prescott’s BOTS! (Warning: spoilers ahead.) In this story, a fire breaks out, spreads through a wooded area, and threatens a lovely manse near a grove of maple trees. I then created a situation where the firefighting team has run out of water. This forced me to come up with an unusual way to stop the fire. Looking to nature for inspiration, I discovered that trees can spew sap to protect themselves during a wildfire in an attempt to survive the blaze. This works because sap is made mostly of water. I took this natural phenomenon and went to an extreme with it to tell a fun story. In the episode, the house near the maple grove is saved when the fire is put out with gallons and gallons of sap from the maple trees.
The logic of using sap to put out a fire was thoroughly questioned during the development of this story. Names will not be named, but there were some doubters. To counter these folks, I even looked up a material safety and data sheet for maple syrup — which is mostly just sap with a great deal of the water removed — to prove that it was not flammable.
The idea was that if syrup was not flammable, then sap — which has even MORE water in it — would also not be flammable and even a plausible way to stop a fire. With this knowledge and the backing of my kick ass editor and producers, the story point stayed in the episode.
And it’s a good thing too because it turns out that I was absolutely right. A couple of real life awesome-sauce people put out a fire at their neighbor’s house with gallons and gallons of maple sap. I’m extremely glad nobody was hurt or injured during this emergency. And I’m also extremely glad that the crazy idea of using tree goo to put out a fire actually works!
Now I have no idea if those involved in putting out this fire ever watched Prescott’s BOTS!, and chances are they probable have not. But this is clearly an example of a time when life imitated art. The anti-memsis fans can rejoice, Oscar Wilde can try to use this to one-up Aristotle in the afterlife, and I will rejoice in the glow of being proven right.
And don’t you think those doubters now look like a bunch of saps?