Some of us who are older may remember a commercial from the 1970s in which Robert Young (who played the role of Marcus Welby, M.D. on television) said something like, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” He then went on to advise us to use the product being advertised in the commercial. But even knowing that Robert Young was just an actor, many viewers still invested him with authority. Even though he reminded us that he was an actor and not a doctor, we still went out and bought the product!
The video below shows a creative and amusing use of the same ploy. In it, well-known actors who portray doctors on television are used to advance a certain health insurance company.
Alas, television has a mesmerizing, hypnotic effect and often overrides our good sense. Indeed, of our senses, the eyes are the most easily deceived. That’s how magicians and illusionists make their money; it’s why optical illusions work.
But even knowing all this, we still fall prey. We reach for the most attractive rather than what is best for us, be it food, a book, or a spouse.
This is one of the reasons I prefer radio to television. It is also, I’m sure, why Scripture says that faith comes by hearing and insists that we walk by faith and not by sight. Indeed, faith and sight are often opposed (e.g., Jn 20:29; 2 Cor 5:7). Regarding the Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas said, Sight and taste and touch are all deceived; only the hearing is safely believed (from his hymn, “Adoro Te Devote”). Yes, the truth of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is accessed not by the eyes but by faith, which comes through hearing (Rom 10:17).
Remember to discount what your eyes see; they are easily fooled. Actors in lab coats are not authorities, they just look that way. At least the commercial below is honest about that. It’s funny and creative, too, and its message is a good one. But it’s still pretty hard to shed the air of authority created by our eyes; that’s why the company uses them! And often the visual media present harmful messages and are less-than-straightforward with their use of mesmerizing tools.
Careful, be not mesmerized. Keep an eye on your eyes!