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When Fantasies Lead You Down the Wrong Path

Inspired by television’s Bloodline

I am obsessed with the Netflix series Bloodline, which supposedly ended recently with Season three (though I’m hoping another network picks it up). Bloodline is a family drama set in the beautiful Florida Keys. The story is filled with lies, secrets, and most of all, moral ambiguity. Who is good? Who is bad? Who has done the most damage, and who is the most aggrieved? Who is the savior and who the destroyer? Though likely, as in life, there are few clear-cut answers.

Fantasies are powerful motivators. They not only show us in the virtual-reality landscape of our minds what we desire, they also give us the physical energy and even the blueprint to fulfill those desires. If we don’t take a step back periodically and become conscious of the fantasies that fuel us, we can find ourselves ferociously marching down the wrong path. Sometimes, we desire or fear something to the point that we cease questioning what is driving us. What is the purpose of this fantasy? Its worthiness? Does it match our true values? Does it hold up to reality? Do we really want that house? That job? That title? That car? That life?

In the show Bloodline, characters Sally—the clan matriarch (played brilliantly by Sissy Spacek)—and “good son” John (played brilliantly by Kyle Chandler) let unchecked fantasies drive them down false and destructive paths.

In the final episode of the final season (spoiler alert), Sally—the mother—gets the heartbreaking news that her beloved Inn, the family’s lush property and business set on an impossibly gorgeous strand of coastline is, supposedly, “worthless” (due to rising tides). She is more distraught, in some ways, by this news than the death and disappearance and self-destruction of most of her offspring.

The Inn has been her fantasy of “home,” her illusion of power and inheritance, her ego center, her one true love. She thought by loving and caring for the Inn, she was loving and caring for her family, only to learn too late, how wrong she was.

Part of the great appeal of this series is the beautiful setting. Tropical paradises have long been a favorite fantasy of mine. If only... if only, I could have a view like that, if only I could walk on warm, white sand every day, life would be relaxed, serene, perfect.

The tropical island fantasy is a fairly common one as far as location fantasies go. I saw an ad recently for a beautiful remote island resort, which undoubtedly would cost a small fortune to visit. The advertisement beckoned readers to “turn off your phone,” unplug, relax. But how much work and effort and striving would it take to make the money and create the time to make that vacation fantasy come true? And would it come true when you were there? Remember: Wherever you go, there you are. Why can’t we just turn off our phone for the weekend and save ourselves the money, time, and long plane flight?

The power of that fantasy can be so intense that we momentarily forget or disassociate from the striving and discord and work it will take to get there. In other words, we may start running our families and ourselves into the ground so we can go on the ideal fantasy vacation.

In Bloodline, Mother Sally isn’t the only one buying into the fantasy of home life at the beautiful and valuable beachfront Inn. All of the children have built their lives on this illusion, this fantasy, even though it ultimately ruins them all. Good Son John, for most of his life, has believed that “being a Rayburn was the greatest gift” of his life. And so he spends his life and ultimately ruins it protecting the Rayburn family, or rather his fantasy of that family.

The brilliant actor Ben Mendelsohn, who plays “black sheep” son Danny and fantasy-destroyer extraordinaire, recently said in an interview: “[John] is so invested in the protection and preservation of that family that he will kill that family to preserve it.”

Beware what you wish for...

Characters Sally and John learned too late. Both fantasized that they were protecting their families and creating a wonderful, safe life for their families, when ironically, they were doing just the opposite. They were both powerful people, with powerfully good intentions, taking themselves powerfully down the wrong path and off the proverbial cliff.

Our last shot of Mother Sally is alone in her kingdom by the sea. John is equally deserted.

Yet, such is the power of fantasy, that when I see those aerial shots of the oceanfront Inn... the palm trees on the warm sand... the glistening water... the promise of the perfect day... my heart flutters and almost reaches toward the screen. Despite the murder and mayhem and striving and toiling and crashing and burning and the disillusionment that I have witnessed over the seasons... for a moment, the heart wants what it wants, and the mind sees what it wants to see.

In one of the final scenes, when Sally says: “The Inn is worthless! Who will buy it now?” I smile to myself, and in my fantasies, I raise my hand and say, “I will. I’ll take it.”

About the Author
Amy Fries

Amy Fries is a writer and editor. She is the author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers.

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