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Escape From The Epigone Effect

by Mark Cammack    July 28, 2019

Picture of waves rippling in concentric circles from a center point in blue water.

Initial and epigonic waves in blue water: The initial wave is the original. The ones that follow are epigones.

Understanding epigones can assist us in many ways in life. This can save time, money, and help us recognize quality. They have powerful effects in society and science, and influence human performance. Our brains and bodies respond to them. They are part of future and new technology of today. What are they? Let us begin our journey with everyday events. In the world of entertainment, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis teamed together for comedy routines, movies, and live shows. They became successful. The duo provided something new for our brains, too. This is called novel stimuli. As humans, we tend to notice things that are different than what we are accustomed to. This has roots in survival, learning, and laughter. It has a basis in invention and creativity. We see it in business as the latest product. It becomes readily apparent in that new person we are dating (or would like to). In all areas, the idea of Do something to get their attention! applies.

Picture of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on the left from 1951. Sammy Petrillo and Duke Mitchell are on the right from 1952. All are wearing tuxedos with bow ties.

The Originals And The Imitators: The left photo is of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in 1951. To the right we have epigones Sammy Petrillo and Duke Mitchell in 1952.

Returning to Martin and Lewis, they grabbed the world's attention while providing humor and stress relief to many. Some persons responded adversely and found Lewis's silly entertainment style to actually be stressful. Irregardless, they were the originals and experts at being themselves. With their success, a pair of reasonably talented imitators emerged by the names of Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo. Sammy looked a lot like Jerry, had his mannerisms and sense of humor, and could pass for being his brother. In some regards, it was a matter of who came first. If Mitchell and Petrillo had been introduced to the world initially, we may perceive them as the genuine articles. The first persons to have a unique pattern are the originals. People who are seen as copying the pattern are epigones. They are viewed as being impersonators.

Have you noticed that commercial TV and radio are full of epigones? They copy one another. The patterns are rarely new. It goes on day after day. What did change in TV shows and song lyrics was the amount of violence and disrupted relationships as forms of entertainment. Persons who watch or listen to it regularly can become what they put in their minds. I saw this while visiting an ophthalmologist in Kentucky. The waiting room had a receptionist who was glued to the TV set. She had moved it and it's cart away from the wall and closer to the front desk. She answered the telephone without taking her eyes off the soap operas. If a guest went to the desk, she tried to look around them to see the TV. The show had loud arguments and discord. For a place that was supposed to be about health, they brought in sick programming.

I asked to wait in a quiet peaceful spot. The lady immediately took offense. "You don't want to watch TV?" she queried in consternation. "No, I don't watch most television," I replied. "You want me to turn it off?" she asked in a raised voice. "I can wait in another area or outside where is it peaceful. Please come get me when it is time," I replied. She actually did turn the uproar off briefly and I sat down nearby.

She was playing a game which was scripted and predictable. Sometimes people repeat what they view, whether it is wise or not. She argued with co-workers. She came over to where I was sitting and said haughtily,"We are going to put you in a room." The small waiting area was better. I could not help but overhear part of the telephone conversation at the front desk. The receptionist began quarreling with someone on the line as the TV blared. When I saw the ophthalmologist he asked how everything was. I told him.

He seem intrigued to meet someone who did not own a TV. I briefly explained brain states, IQ, and behavior as a result of what goes into a person's mind. The concepts seemed new to him, and he was also a professor at the university. That was Kentucky. The ideas were very familiar to neuroscientist Dr. Marian Diamond of the University of California at Berkeley. She focused on brain functioning, health, and development. Positive or negative environments, exercise, and nutrition affect our well-being and intelligence. Dr. Diamond was brighter than most for a reason.

I once visited an acting school run by a legitimate actor. The fellow has been in movies and was insightful. He cordially gave me a tour of his studio. It was a learning experience. I was told new things about green rooms and blue screens and techniques. It was enjoyably intriguing.

An instructor was with Second City - the famous acting group. I had memories of watching Second City Television (SCTV) comedy with delightful persons such as John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, and Andrea Martin. I was interested in humor and helping others to laugh in a positive way. It can be healing for those who need it.

To my dismay, the instructor focused on what seemed to be unhealthy approaches. She stated something like,"People want to watch arguing and conflict. They just can't get enough of it. They will stay glued to the TV to watch it." Really? Is that the state of the entire country? I hope not. I never met successful or healthy persons who lived on junk food for the body or mind. The practiced scene was not funny. It involved two ladies in a bathroom. I politely excused myself as the brain will rewire to negativity. When that happens, your performance level can drop faster than Santa Claus going down a greased chimney. It is the opposite of the laughter and cheerfulness people like John Candy were good at inspiring. An epigonic wave of negativity will cause a tsunami of trouble. We need a healthy happy way to go if we are to have healthy happy lives.

Our brains work on novel stimuli to increase IQ. If we largely encounter epigones, we may be held in what is known as a field of stasis and then we never reach our full potential. Picture being in a corn field and that is all you ever see. Your little house is there and things are stable. You have all the corn you desire. Breakfast consists of corn grits, lunch is corn on the cob and corn bread, and dinner corn casserole. For snacks you have pop corn. The pattern is reliable but the same over and over again, day after day. If you were raised there, you might think that is all there is to life. Many people experience lots of social and mental corn daily. It happens when they turn on specific radio or TV shows, repeat drudgery, or with negative relationships. The way out is to escape from the epigones into new positive fields.

We see newness in business as fads emerge. The latest clothing style or idea for a product hits the market. If appealing, customers want it and buy it. This can result in a fad that moves like a wave through society and gradually dissipates, or remains if the product is really useful. A colored glow-in-the-dark shampoo and dye for our pets may be a fad. An easier cleaning, evenly heating, faster cooking stove may remain in the marketplace for a long time. In both instances we can expect imitators to emerge with so-called knock-off items. These can be of lessor quality or of lessor perceived quality. Even if the newer item is better, the first can remain with a large market share based on the brand name. The original and not the epigone has hegemony in our minds.

Picture of a fluffy glowing green dog with the caption

A fictitious fad example: "I Could Just Dye" glowing hair spray with permanent dye for pets. It fluffs as it shines. Make sure your favorite friend really stands out in the crowd. Not only does it allow you to stroll through the park at night without a flashlight, it also offers abundant embarrassment.

The Internet is full of epigones as websites copy one another. Fortunately some offer original material that is meaningful and of value to us. Initially, well coded and written websites were easy to read. Then pop-up ads then became common even in the beginning or middle of articles. This disrespectfully interrupts our focus on what we are reading in an amateurish way. Imagine being in need of immediate information for health, a product or food recall, or national credit card security concern. Upon using a search engine, the first web page that pops up is full of pop-ups. The copycats provided third class copy. Clean helpful pages are the only way to go.

Have you ever taken a high school or college class where the teacher read from the textbook? Or perhaps they simply repeated material in an uninspiring monotone voice? Anyone? Does anyone remember the classic scene from the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off with the economics teacher? When interesting and lively stories are needed to make the class appealing, you find yourself being put to sleep by an educational epigone. To put it in fancy terms they are a pedestrian pedant. While this can be a solution for insomnia, it is not so good for learning new things.

As we return to our beginning analogy, consider this: If children drop a rock in a pond, the original contact area and first waves are the most exciting and entertaining. These have the most impact. The resulting waves gradually diminish as they spread out. They have a similar form but carry less energy. Sometimes kids will throw more rocks before all the waves settle down. Hearing the splash and seeing the bouncing of the water is exciting. They want to have fun and watch something new as they learn. Finally, they know what it is like to make waves in a pond and move on to explore new things. As adults, we should be like that too.

What does this mean for us? When we make the choice to pursue our life's passion and emerge at our finest, we can be original. We can have something unique to offer others without copying anyone. Psychologists such as Abraham Maslow might call this self-actualization and Carl Jung individuation. Chemist Albert Szent-Györgyi might say it is discovery. We will have escaped from the epigones by giving and becoming our best. This is how each of us can develop into our own wonderfully ideal person.


Images are © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. They are derived works with items modified, added, deleted, or colors changed. The original public domain sources are:

Initial and epigonic waves in blue water photo was based on:

The Originals And The Imitators photo is a composite utilizing the next two sources:

The Colgate Comedy Hour TV show from NBC. Starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. February 4, 1951. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1924 and 1977 without a copyright notice.

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla public domain movie. Starring Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo. Jack Broder Productions. 1952.

I Could Just Dye glowing pet hair spray photo has its foundation from:

Other Reference

Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Directed by John Hughes. Starring Matthew Broderick and Mia Sara. Paramount Pictures. 1986.

© Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.