You see? This is what I'm talking about.
Freddie Mercury died in 1991. Then he was in the Olympics Closing Ceremony this week. Depending on which account you read, this is presented variously from, "A video played," or "The segment started with old footage," to "Freddie Mercury's hologram 'duets' with Jessie J." Some people expressed relief Mercury didn't go the Tupac hologram route (which, regular readers will recall, wasn't really a hologram either). Others offered seemingly unquestioningly and unproblematically that Mercury fronted for his band Queen at the Olympics this week and led the crowd in song.
Here, so long as Youtube doesn't take it down, is the video:
I have questions. And, as good luck would have it, answers.
Q: What is the difference between this (or Tupac) and going to a movie?
A: Audience participation. He called; they responded.
Q: Okay then, what's the difference between this (or Tupac) and a singalong screening of The Sound of Music or The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
A: In those movies, actors are playing parts. Here, Freddie is really Freddie.
Q: So it's a film but of something real. Like during Shark Week?
A: No because it's live.
Q: No it isn't. Freddie's dead.
A: Yes, but the audience is both alive and live. Living, sure, but more importantly present. Witnessing the event, live. Participating in it.
Q: So, like a play?
A: No, because in that case we have actors playing roles again. And also, probably, those actors are alive.
Q: Okay, then let me ask this question: what, practically speaking, is the difference between an alive-Freddie Mercury performing at the Olympics and a dead-Freddie Mercury performing at the Olympics?
A: You see a projection rather than a person.
Q: Not really. Either way, aren't you watching him on the jumbotron?
A: Yes, but you see a little tiny mini him down front, depending on how good your seats are.
Q: Yeah, but you still see that little tiny mini him down front. It's just not really him. You'd have to know to know though.
Yeah, hmm. My question is less: isn't Freddie Mercury just archive footage at that point? And more: isn't Freddie Mercury just as real as alive at that point? Why do we need to be present/alive to exist, perform, and even interact with the living?
I hope that doesn't sound bleak for I mean it exuberantly. My point is simply this: so very much of us does exist in electronic archive, far far more of us than of poor pre-tech-boom, pre-social-media Freddie. The difference between actual us and that archive is, I suspect, stranger and weaker than we imagine.
About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.