When Hollywood gets the chance to portray real world things, it always takes ample creative license. You can pick out a dozen random topics and discover how these things are shown on screen don’t always mesh with real life experience.
This is especially true with floating and isolation tanks. TV shows and movies are quick to take floating and shroud it in mystery, danger and fantasy. “The Pretender,” a TV series which aired from 1996 to 2000, offers a good example of this trend.
An episode from the second season, titled Over the Edge, deals with the impact of an isolation tank on the series’ main character Jarod – played by Michael T. Weiss. Jarod helps reunite an estranged mother and son. This plot device serves as a jumping off point for Jarod in his efforts to reconnect with his own long lost mother.
Jarod uses an isolation tank to revisit his past experiences with floating. The audience witnesses flashbacks where a younger Jarod is compelled to float inside an isolation tank as a relaxation tool. He is forced to float so he can be used for scientific experiments conducted by a shadowy group known only as The Centre.
Young Jarod’s time inside the isolation tank produces hallucinations of his mother. He attempts to connect physically with these hallucinations. Since Jarod was kidnapped and used for experimentation from a young age, he cannot even remember hugging his mother and longs to feel her touch.
The tank offers a chance at the physical contact Jarod craves in the form of hallucinations. In there, he can touch his mother and speak to her once more. Young Jarod enjoys floating in the tank. There, he can enjoy a taste of freedom away from his kidnappers.
Floating is portrayed in a positive light on “The Pretender.” Jarod uses floating as a relaxation tool at different points in his life and he uses it to access memories as an adult.
Still, “The Pretender” does bend reality as it relates to isolation tanks to suit its own purposes. Young Jarod frequently hallucinates inside the tank. Adult Jarod is shown using the tank for days at a time without taking a break – a practice that isn’t recommended or safe.
One disturbing aspect is the role an isolation tank plays in scientific experimentation. Young Jared is forced to float as a method of relaxation, so he is refreshed enough to be experimented on by his captors. Real isolation tanks are not used for such diabolical purposes. Real-life floating is an experience designed to improve your life. It creates an environment where stress and pain melt away. Floating is the perfect way to recharge your internal batteries when the pressures associated with work, school, family and daily life wear you down.
Hollywood once again fails to pass the reality test with floating in “The Pretender.” Isolation tanks need no embellishment. The effects and realities of what it can do are better than fiction.