The idea of some D-bag showing the world how the effects we practice and perform work — the effects we make our livings with — makes magicians sick. The exposer is ruining the magic for us, and our audiences. He is robbing them of the opportunity to experience that increasingly rare feeling of wonder. Or is he?
If you want to look at the issue of exposure logically, and without bias, you must first look at WHERE and HOW magic is being exposed.
When one thinks of magic exposure, the first images that pop into mind are of The Masked Magician and his numerous television shows, and random kids exposing magic on YouTube.
Lets first look at The Masked Magician. He has exposed a lot of magic over the years. A LOT. And it hasn’t seemed to negatively affect the tricks which he has exposed. In fact, he had exposed Cigarette Through Quarter, yet it didn’t stop David Blaine, Criss Angel, and Cyril Takayama from using, and KILLING with that very effect on their respective television shows. Why not? His shows are seen by millions of people right? Sure, but there are BILLIONS of people on the planet. Really, who cares if 2 million Americans see how a trick is done; there are 300 million Americans out there! The numbers are still on your side.
Next up is YouTube exposure. All over YouTube (and the internet in general), there are kids learning, sharing, posting and exposing some of the most popular effects in magic today. Any effect you can think of has been exposed on YouTube, where anyone can watch it, anytime. It is there, and it is there FOREVER. That will make some of you furious, no doubt. But let’s look at this from a different angle: Most of these exposure vids have only a few hundred views at most. Sure, there are a few that have millions of views, but those are the minority. Ultimately, although MORE secrets are being exposed, FEWER people are seeing them. The big issue that most have is that the exposure is so public (anyone can watch the tutorials), and so permanent (online is forever).
The fact of the matter is that only those who are interested in the secret will go looking for it. And whether they find it on YouTube, download a torrent or buy a copy, they will learn the secret if they really want to. Just like you did. Just like we ALL do. Really, the people that are exposing magic are magicians, and the people paying attention to exposure, are, you guessed it, also magicians. Let that one sink in for a while.
Yes, there are lay audiences that watch exposure videos too, but the same statement holds true; they are interested in the secrets of magic. They are magicians in the making. I personally know MANY magicians that got their start by seeing a magician, and then seeking out the secret. In fact, I think more magicians are made that way than any other way. Exposure is actually HELPING magic by getting more people interested! Crazy, I know, but legitimate nonetheless.
So we have now established that the two most prevalent forms of exposure have limited audiences, that are primarily made up of magicians, and those who are curious about the art, oftentimes future magicians themselves. The question now is does exposure ruin magic for lay audiences?
You see, we magicians are fascinated with magic. We are constantly learning, creating, and performing. We know magic inside and out. We can recognize by simple mannerisms when someone is using a thumb tip, regardless of whether they are vanishing a cigarette, switching bills or making a silk vanish. Laypeople simply don’t think like that. If a laymen sees the silk vanish exposed, and now knows it just goes into the “fake thumb,” they still don’t know how a bill switch is done. The effect may be ruined for that particular spectator, but the method is not. That same spectator can still (easily) be fooled with a thumb tip, just used in a different manner. Also, because laymen are not magicians, they really don’t care; they will forget the exposure at some point simply because it isn’t relevant to them.
Penn & Teller have made their careers on exposing the secrets of magic, in both their live show, and their television show. They have exposed everything from the cups and balls, to psychic investigators, yet it doesn’t stop thousands of magicians from doing the cups and balls, nor does it stop people from enlisting the services of such charlatans.
The only type of exposure that matters; the only kind of exposure that actually hurts the art of magic, is — fortunately enough — the only type of exposure you can control. That is exposure through poor performance.
I have seen so much magic exposed simply by poor performances that I think that is where the real harm comes from. Magicians who think they can “buy” a show. Magicians who think, “I don’t have to be good, I’m funny.” Magicians who don’t care about magic, but rather entertainment, but that is a whole other subject for another day…
The only thing bad for magic is bad magicians. Exposure sucks, but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Just do what you do, and do it to the best of your ability.
What do you think? Does exposure actually matter? Discuss in the comments, but keep it civil, guys.