Reading Christopher Hadfield’s book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, I started to feel lazy; a lazy underachiever. Against a guy who’s done so much (astronaut, I.S.S. Commander, fighter pilot, top test pilot, engineer) how can anyone not be a bit intimidated by that?
What struck me was how thorough astronauts are. They plan for failure. They practice and practice, sweating the small stuff until it’s almost instinctive. Hadfield relates an incident where a fire alarm goes off on the space station and he and his fellow astronauts worked the problem with barely a raised heart rate. It would be too much to say that everything is routine to an astronaut, but the tools at their disposal, and their reaction to crises enable them to deal with life and death matters calmly when the rest of us would be running around like headless chickens.
And this brings to the real point of this post.
People who get sent into space now, and probably in the future will be well trained, competent people that Hollywood will still portray unrealistically by making them react like us. In other words, humanizing them, or making them more sympathetic.
Gravity is a culprit in this. From a GlobeandMail.com article, Chris Hadfield himself said about the characters:
“The storyline and the characters are extremely non-representative of reality,” notes the Ace of Space. “They didn’t even try to get an astronaut’s character trait correct or the kind of person whom you would trust, or the training or level of skill that’s involved. Or the seriousness with which you make it your career for decades.”
And in the commentary for Apollo 13, an otherwise excellent film, Jim Lovell had a similar comment about a scene where the 3 astronauts raise their voices and start arguing. He basically calls BS on the filmmakers and said that never happened.
But as everyday people we apparently can’t relate to people who don’t yell, argue, or cry in a crisis. We’re not astronauts. And they’re right on one count, most of us don’t have the right stuff. But can we relate to people who do in a film or TV dramatization? Maybe not, maybe we can only admire them. I’d still like to see someone try.