I committed to a thousand word post every day. Let’s fucking do this.
I chronically avoid a couple types of media. And this is as true of the written word as it is of movies and television, but they’re the easiest to find popularly relatable examples of, so I’ll use them. They’re pretty easily classifiable I think. But let’s do the experiment before I talk about why I’m bringing it up.
– No redeemable characters.
If there’s not a character I can relate to and root for, I’m not interested. One of the things about Seinfeld, as an example, and the second half of Godfather 2 is that I couldn’t get to is the complete lack of characters I had any actual interest in.
I don’t care how great the writing is in either of those things, the characters are all absolute scumbags or irredeemable criminals.
It’s a part of why I ingest story. I’m figuring out the world, watching for rules and situations and how to handle them. Sure I can enjoy something that’s well written, but there’s enough out there that has both qualities that there’s really just no reason to condescend to a narrative I can’t put myself in well enough to get involved with. If there’s no perspective I can share, I’m just not interested at all, no matter how glib the dialog is, how well the scenes are set up, how great the cinematography is. Don’t care. Not interested.
Things like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad also fall squarely in this category. They’re shows glorifying criminals. I just don’t have any interest in it.
– Embarrassement by proxy or cringey levels of emotiveness
This has a lot of overlap with the former I suppose. But the fact that it’s designed to make me wince overrides the fact that maybe in the prior category it’s “not that bad.”
Take “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for example. It’s a fucking horror show of discomfort and cringe. Sure, it’s well written, and I’ve been strapped to a couch at a “friend”s house to suffer through a couple episodes. But nothing is worth the absolute awfulness that is that Larry David moment that seems to be the entire point of the show.
I have quite enough of that kind of discomfort in my own life already, THANKyouverymuch, that I’m not going to subject myself to yet more of it out of some twisted fucking notion of entertainment.
The other side of this category is romance and tear jerkers, even down to the level of RomComs. I know women seem to love that kind of gushing emotiveness when displayed on screen. Perhaps it’s some kind of catharsis. I don’t know.
To me it’s too crass, too rude, too much to display on the screen. Emotiveness is a private thing, as I’ve recently been reminded in the strongest possible terms. I would no more engage in that kind of behavior in public than I would strip down naked in a crowded bar, and for almost exactly the same reason. So why the hell would I consume that kind of thing as entertainment?
That’s not to say I avoid all depictions of romance and affection. Hardly. But when it’s just flagrant, lacking all subtlety…no.
– Video Games: Playing the villian
This might seem a strange inclusion, but I realized this was incomplete without it.
When I play “Role Playing Games” I take what I’ll call The Paladin’s Path. Whenever there’s a case of moral choice I, and I’ve said this out loud several times “can’t do what I wouldn’t do.” In Mass Effect I go full paragon. In Fallout 4 I’ll never side with The Institute. Every time. I’ve got thousands of hours in these things (sometimes in individual games, which doesn’t exactly fill me with pride) and, once the Right choice is clear, I’m always taking that path. Every time.
– Horror: Just about every kind
I’ve never understood why people consume horror. Why would you subject yourself to that? Psychological horror, graphic horror (splatterpunk, etc.) torture porn, supernatural horror…actually I can’t think of a fourth kind.
It’s just too damned disgusting and literally horrifying.
The last horror movie I’ll ever watch was The Ring. Throughout the movie they would give you little nigh-subliminal glimpses of a disfigured corpse in a closet. They hit you with it maybe 3 or 4 times. But it was never long enough to get a good luck at it.
Then, about 3/4 through the movie they give it to you for about 5 seconds, an eternity. By that time your brain has been so hungry to resolve these previously flashed images that you just can’t fight the compulsion to stare at it and take it all in. I’ll absolutely give them credit. It was genius. I don’t remember how long ago I saw that, but the image and attending internal screaming will never leave me.
I realized in that moment that they’d figured out the formula. They’ve got it nailed. They can short-circuit my forebrain and just hit me right where it’ll do the most damage.
NOT that I was so hot on the genre to begin with. But I’d sit and suffer through something if it was what was going on in the crowd.
Part of my self appraisal is that I’ve just got too much RIGHT under the surface of my psyche to allow that kind of shit to be punching holes in the armor to bring it up. I’m fighting with too many demons to indulge in something that will, in my appraisal, literally weaken my ability to keep them at bay.
I don’t need that. I’m playing a very carefully balanced game with myself as it is and it would throw me straight off a cliff. It’s too easy to see myself doing horrible things. It’s too frequent that I have those intrusive “what if I just did this absolutely horrifying thing right now, out of the blue?” thoughts to give them any airtime beyond what it takes for me to shake them off.
“But everybody has those kinds of thoughts.”
Yeah that’s great. I’m not everybody. I’m just me and I’ve got no vision into how other people handle this shit.
There might be other categories. But those are the couple/few that come to mind.
I damn near couldn’t watch Game of Thrones and if I’d known what it was going to be (utterly disastrous ending seasons notwithstanding) I probably wouldn’t have.
But I watched some Jordan Peterson shorts published on youtube by some of the accounts that apparently make their living by cutting up his stuff, repackaging it and reposting it. Fine with me, and apparently with him. In it he talked about consuming these kinds of things. He might have been talking about horror movies explicitly, but I don’t recall him saying as much.
He said SOMEthing like “people watch uncomfortable things because awful things happen”, which is a hopeless butchery on my part.
It got me to thinking about his lectures about shadow integration and the admonishment that you can’t be good unless you understand your own darkness, your shadow, to use the Jungian term.
I think about that “shadow integration” stuff rather a lot, because I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on that. I’ve got some idea of the darkness in the depths of my own soul, and when I compare myself with people around me I get the impression that I’ve actually got a pretty good grasp of it, in relative terms at least.
But hearing him say that, in his inimitable way, got me wondering…do I? Am I just kidding myself? I do and don’t do an awful lot in my life out of fear.
I’m more of a “people pleaser” than people seem to realize, because I counterbalance it with a lot of abrasiveness. I can be disturbingly honest which, as I’ve mentioned here before, is a deeply Machiavellian defense mechanism. People don’t challenge me because I make sure they don’t because, in turn, I know I’ll buckle like a house of cards if they do. So I have this strangely caustic persona because I’m absolutely fucking terrified of the situation I don’t have a precise playbook to deal with.
Oh I’m better than I used to be. I have my lines that won’t be crossed, my morals and ethics that I won’t have violated. But those are reactive measures.
I’ll dwell on that more I’m sure. (SOOPER SHURE)
But I think it’s time to explore some of the things I cringe and wince away from, to force myself into uncomfortable places and dive straight for some of the things I hate.
So when I look at the above categories it really narrows down into two kinds of reaction: Disgust and Fear.
Larry David and Seinfeld disgust me. I think their shows are worthless schlock.
But I’m afraid of Breaking Bad.
On one hand I fear becoming jaded to those kinds of depictions of evil. What you grow accustomed to, you allow. But on the other hand, what you fear controls you.
So I’ve managed to…erm…”secure” the full show and I’m going to start, maybe tonight, watching it if I have to force myself to do so.
It’s a pithy start, to be sure. But I have to see what happens and where it goes from there.