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 Post subject: The Masked Magician - Essay by DWmagic
PostPosted: Sun Jun 11, 2006 3:29 am 
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"Val Valentino, the Masked Magician!" We all remember the first time we heard those words. The Masked Magician was a very sick person, who had zero respect for the art of Magic and Magicians. But I think that there is a need to look closer into Valentino, what he did on those specials, and what we can learn from it. Let me get one thing straight at the beginning. I'm as much, if not more against exposure as anyone else.

The main reason I decided to write this essay is because people liked the Masked Magician. I'm not talking about Magicians, I'm talking about Laypeople. I've heard some say that they even love those programmes. This is a problem. Laypeople actually liked a goon dressed up in black with a mask who was so poor at doing magic he felt deprived enough to reveal the secrets. I even have heard that some Magicians enjoyed watching these programmes. What does that say about our magic? Have we not entertained our audiences enough to get to the point where they don't care about the secrets? Even though the specials were a long time ago, you still hear people talking about them today! I think that these programmes give us a real need to raise our level. We have to get our spectators to think it isn't all about the secret. You may think that you are already doing that, but has anyone asked you about the Masked Magician after you've shown them your ACR?

I think that on average, the people that the shows were made for probably remember at most three of the secrets. For me that proves one thing. That spectators don't care about the secret. I remember when I used to teach someone a simple magic trick to show there friends (which, I hasten to add, is a completely different thing to what Mr Valentino did), how many times they forgot the secret! Have you ever been to a Magic convention and remembered the effect, but not the method? A magic effect has the capability of staying with the spectators for years. The Masked Magician television specials made people believe they cared about the secret. And what response did it receive?

"Oh, that’s clever."

But still, people think that all that magic is, is reading instructions. We must remind Laypeople that Magic is an Art, and it is an Art of entertainment.

Let me explain. A dancer can spend hour’s apon hours to perfect a move in a routine. It includes a clever series of movements in the toes that allows the body to burst into a leap. This move takes seconds, and the audience may reply to it with an "Ahhhhh." However, the audience don't care about the secret of the move. They don't care that this move took weeks of prep with a personal tutor; they don't care about anything else but themselves. They care about their Entertainment. They don't think twice about the secret, or method.

I think that we as Magicians should reach a point where we almost forget about the secret and make the spectator forget about the secret. We should make the spectator forget that there is a method to the things that you do. It should be a 'miracle' that they cannot explain. After all, the spectators don't care about the secret, spectators want to be entertained.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 11, 2006 5:46 am 
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I think the reason the Masked Magician worked was that he presented everything that is bad about stage magic. He used excessive props, no real presentation, lots of assistants who were better at magic than he was and never received any recognition. Then there were the voiceovers, a horrific patronising tone, terrible puns... And the character of the guy performing, with a smug superiority which could only derive from his knowledge of a secret. He is clearly out only to fool, not to entertain, and all the while there is this voice in your ear making fun of the assistants while asking if you've solved the puzzle yet.

Of course you want to know the secret, when it's being rubbed in your face this hard. So for the audience there is actually a relief when it's revealed and you see that this cocky git is just a person who knows something which you now know as well. He isn't above you after all.

Compare one of his 'perfomances' with, say, the Penndragons. Who would want the Penndragons to transpose places instantly then say "Now for how it's done!" . No. Copperfields flying illusion is an amazing fulfillment of the child's fantasy to fly feely. The cheeky floating in a box is really more of an afterthought, and is as much about the image of walking under an assistant, and this beautiful abstract scene. It just also happens to add to the illusion. Imagine how the masked magician would have presented it.
First we have an unnecessary use of assistants. Then they lift him. He floats up, down into a box. The lid is placed on the box. "How can he still float while in a box? See you after the break for how it's done." Who puts on a better show? Obviously Copperfield. Who puts on a show you really want to see the second half of? It's a cruel trick to play.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:09 pm 
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I have to agree completly with you DW. I am against exposure, mostly for the brashness of it all. How dare someone take my Art, my joy, and throw it to the mud and make it out to be some cheap trick that anyone can do! It was a tremendous slap in the face to those performers who use many of the illusions exposed as their livelihood. :evil:

The excuse the Masked Magician used was "to force the Magic community to come up with new and exciting effects, and retire the old." (my paraphrasing). Who died and made him Lord God and King of all Magical Illusions? I don't remember voting him supreme power......
:x
As you say, the average layperson doesn't care one whit about the secret. They think they do, but they really don't. They are all about entertainment, and if you wow them with a great effect, half the fun for them is to try and figure it out. They'll give up after a moment or two, and then enjoy the fact that they've just seen a small miracle. :D

There are 6 billion people in this world. You haven't performed for one tenth of one tenth of one tenth of a percent of them, and if you do happen to perform for someone who caught that show, chances are you can use that to boost your own performance. :wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:13 pm 
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I have to agree completly with you DW. I am against exposure, mostly for the brashness of it all. How dare someone take my Art, my joy, and throw it to the mud and make it out to be some cheap trick that anyone can do! It was a tremendous slap in the face to those performers who use many of the illusions exposed as their livelihood. :evil:

The excuse the Masked Magician used was "to force the Magic community to come up with new and exciting effects, and retire the old." (my paraphrasing). Who died and made him Lord God and King of all Magical Illusions? I don't remember voting him supreme power......
:x
As you say, the average layperson doesn't care one whit about the secret. They think they do, but they really don't. They are all about entertainment, and if you wow them with a great effect, half the fun for them is to try and figure it out. They'll give up after a moment or two, and then enjoy the fact that they've just seen a small miracle. :D

There are 6 billion people in this world. You haven't performed for one tenth of one tenth of one tenth of a percent of them, and if you do happen to perform for someone who caught that show, chances are you can use that to boost your own performance. :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 12:49 am 
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This is a huge coincidence! I read this essay, and looked up Valentino's article on Wikipedia just to see what they had to say about him, and today (June 14, 2006) is his 50th birthday.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 7:03 am 
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well, happy birthday mr. masked magician! :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:28 pm 
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think he did some thing good and bad im magic.
tha bad thing is he reveled the4 secrets.
the god thing is, reveling the secrets forced magicians to come up with cooler, better tricks. insted of doing the same old one's for 100 years.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:01 pm 
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the_Amazing_Matt wrote:
think he did some thing good and bad im magic.
tha bad thing is he reveled the4 secrets.
the god thing is, reveling the secrets forced magicians to come up with cooler, better tricks. insted of doing the same old one's for 100 years.


true, and he encouraged others to pursue magic.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 10:50 pm 
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the_Amazing_Matt wrote:
think he did some thing good and bad im magic.
tha bad thing is he reveled the4 secrets.
the god thing is, reveling the secrets forced magicians to come up with cooler, better tricks. insted of doing the same old one's for 100 years.


Please don't misinterpret what I am about to say.

However, that is like saying, "I think Usama bin Laden did a good thing and a bad thing on 9/11. The bad thing was he flew a plane into a building. The good thing is that, in blowing that building up, it forced architects to design a newer, better building, instead of using the same othey had been using over the past few decades."


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 4:06 pm 
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It's not only a stupid argument, it's also wrong. Magic has been evolving and developed by those who love the art. Look at the work of Paul Harris for example. All this would change is that it would have to be evolved and developed by those in fear for their jobs.

Would you sabotage a musician's instrument so they have to find new ways to play? Would you disrupt a comedian's act, because you think that will make them develop funnier jokes? At what point did he promise that if new methods were developed he wouldn't expose those too?


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 7:04 pm 
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Crisis, i see where you're coming from but I don't totally agree with your analogy, comparing revealling secret knowledge with physical destruction. The magic equivilent of your 9/11 scenario is the Masked Magician visiting magicians' shows, going backstage and sabotaging the props, making them unusable, and therefore forcing the magician to get something new and better.

I'm sticking with my analogy I made in another thread that having a magic trick revealed is like seeing how a movie was made.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:34 pm 
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I hate stage magic. Not so much now just because people are finally changing things up. But my outlook on stage magic was very poor as a kid. Girl goes inside box, girl disappears. Box is shown empty, girl appears, girl box, box, girl. Fake knives, dance routines, spandex. Ugh. Hated stage magic. Stage magicians needed the kick in the pants that the masked magician gave them. They needed to come up with some new stuff or new ways to present old effects. I'm glad it happened and that is exactly what the masked magician was out to do.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:26 am 
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And he did it by performing some of the worst 'box-girl' magic ever, teaching people to hate it.

Surely he could have achieved the same thing in a more productive way by simply producing really good magic that wasn't 'box-girl' magic? Or by creating an astonishing, clever stage routine which actually satires 'box-girl' magic, showing how absurd it is while still using magic? There are better ways to make magicians improve their magic. Exposure only discourages them altogether.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:47 am 
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There's a theory that "magicians guard an empty safe", which means that the reason magicians don't reveal their secrets is because the secret is so dark and dirty it's actually better not to know. However, sometimes, the secret behind a trick is as impressive, if not more, than the trick itself. A number of the secrets exposed by the Masked Magician I regarded as very interesting. I didn't learn to hate magic from his specials; I was influenced by them.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:40 pm 
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There are a few cases where exposing the method is actually as or more entertaining than the actual trick, and isn't insulting or damaging to the art of magic. Take for example Penn & Teller's monster truck illusion. However this sort of thing has to be considered very carefully. i would trust Penn & Teller to be sensible about it. I wouldn't trust Valentino, as he didn't seem to really care whether it was a boring secret or not.


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