Re: Movie Escapism

Presenting a self-examination of my recent moviegoing infatuation

Movies, comic books, and outlets of fantasy as a whole have been valued by Americans since the early 20th century. It has always been refreshing for our society to watch good triumph evil or see the underdog rising above their station. It isn’t an epiphany to anyone that movies are cathartic during periods of tension, but I’ve been looking deeper to examine my own personal attachment.

In recent months in particular, I have buried myself in fantasy films – Rogue One, Moana, and in particular Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Fantasy films are founded in the reality of human experience, with certain elements distorted. The circumstances of a movie elicits emotional responses from its characters, often evoking empathy and catharsis in viewers. We see our characters, be they isolated or gifted or “chosen”, undergo difficulties and setbacks, failures and anxieties, fears and vulnerabilities. These backstories and storylines are crafted to emulate experiences that viewers may have had. Everyone has characters they can relate to, and all of those characters are prone to struggles.

We as viewers might have had similar burdens and traumas as a given character, but a fantasy movie will exaggerate this upset for their character, either by cause or effect. In the Harry Potter books and films, the major characters are outsiders. However, the story augments the impetus for their loneliness, or the consequences of their isolation in such a way that it forms an important plot, imbuing their troubles with a sense of import and relevance. That relevance, that notion of cosmic entitlement to problems that matter, is something that can be hard to find.

Recently, I’ve been having a very hard time, in school and in general. I struggle with depression, with the stress of college applications and calculus, the leadership responsibilities I’ve been grappling with in my orchestra. It is hard for me to feel like my own hardships are important, when so many friends and acquaintances are dealing with grades and health and home environments so much worse.

In movies, the problems the characters are having matter. Their problems are a focal point in the film. Other characters notice and respond to their struggles, and the presence of an audience inherently validates their concerns.

I have always loved fictional stories, worlds, and characters. I have always been fascinated by fantasy settings, and intrigued by punchy science fiction. There are tons of reasons that I might read a book or watch a film, but I believe that it is this validation of characters that has provided such an addictive escape for me in the theaters, this past month or so.

I just want to imagine a world where my problems are ones that matter.

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Sno

Everyone seems to be in despair about the early dismissal tomorrow and the cancellation of weekend and potentially Monday activities, for a myriad of valid reasons and conflicts, but I’m as happy as I’ve ever been!

I realized last week that this was my Last Chance to pray for snowfall to come through and completely shut down the city for a day or more. Being such a cornerstone of my winter experience, it hadn’t occurred to me before that I mightn’t spend further days crossing my fingers in delightful anticipation of a 1 inch blizzard. Only one inch because this is Atlanta, and one inch is all it takes for every activity in which I partake to grind to a grudging halt.

The potency of my hope correlates with the potency of the Theoretical Event – all my wishing has to squeeze out of the universe is a measly twinkling of snow to achieve my aim.

I don’t mean to be bragging about how happy I am to avoid things – there are certainly exceptions to that avoidance, fore one – but I can’t pass up any way of relishing this final stand of a snow day’s delight. Even if I stay in Atlanta for college, as I just as well might, I imagine that things will be more important and more enjoyable to attend than anything I’ve slogged through in high school, and thus a snow day might bring me more regret and anxiety than relief, an effect it is already having on my friends.

I made myself write this out and post it, no matter how droll, because my brain has gone dull and bemused tonight, and I’d quite like to joggle it into a focused, productive state, if not a happy one. Cheers.

Sleep Is Important

One might think that this isn’t an argument that requires making, merely supporting with additional scientific discovery, at this point. But apparently, one would be wrong.

This is a response to a certain art teacher, who says certain unhelpful things such as “find the time, find the money, stay up late”, “stay up late, get it done”, and “as they say in college: when you are partying or sleeping, someone else is working.”

I have several issues with this.

  1. Factually, this sort of advice/chastisement is drearily off the mark. Sleep is a basic and essential human need for survival. Sleep is a priority. If you can sleep and still have your other essential needs – food and shelter – the next morning, you need to sleep.
  2. Ideologically, I find this even more grating. If sleep is beneficial, and it is, then no one should be trying to idealize the deprivation of sleep. Point blank, you cannot and should not shame people for looking after themselves. Taking care of yourself is good. Knowing what you need and letting yourself have that is good. Supporting your brain in its need to function is good.
  3. Practically, this is completely ludicrous. Losing sleep is not going to make you a better student, in high school or in college. By staying up to finish one project, you sacrifice much of your cognitive ability, physical and emotional wellness, and energy to address classes and additional work for the following day. Even if you’re trying to prioritize your academic performance over your own health, this is not an effective way to go about it.
  4. Logically, this is the wrong argument to be making. Yes, we high school students do tend to stay up late to finish our work. Situations can vary, and occasionally we do in fact have to. But oftentimes, in the case of my fellow art students and me, we only have to stay up late because our time management skills are abysmal. If you are trying to coach us into being more effective students, you should be targeting our methods of managing our workloads.

A lot of my personal anger at how frequently he delivers such harmful remarks comes from my experience with sleep and sleep deprivation in combination with a major clinical depression. I have learned, through a long journey of self examination, that I Need To Sleep. This is not unusual. Everyone needs to sleep. Everyone feels better and performs better when they are well slept. For me, though, I have learned that the less I sleep, the less I am able to perform basic daily functions such as getting out of bed, performing facial expressions, and sometimes even moving. Not that I have ever been immobile for an entire day just because I didn’t get enough sleep, but exhaustion exacerbates my depression, and my depression likes to give me brief episodes of fairly severe executive dysfunction when it’s provoked.

I know, that for my success in addition to my safety, I need to put sleeping well before anything else I could possibly do. I know that I need a full night of sleep, or else I risk spiraling into a cycle of failure to complete important tasks, consequent self loathing and decreased motivation, and an increased compulsion towards self destructive behaviors. That is my personal experience, but to varying degrees these sorts of consequences are present for all humans. Humans need sleep. Some neurotypical people such as yourself, Mr. Brandhorst, might be able to lose sleep, suffer, and shrug it off, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone else. Even if it were:

DON’T TELL TEENAGERS

TO LOSE

MORE SLEEP

It’s honestly such a misuse of your authority as a teacher and adult to encourage and enable the devaluing of sleep by teenagers and society as a whole, which is already a huge problem. Teenagers don’t get enough sleep. Teenagers need to get more sleep. Our brains are not fully developed. Even if they were, sleep deprivation causes minor but permanent degrees of brain damage. Furthermore, losing sleep isn’t helpful in any sort of long run. Senior student Emma provides testimony that “literally almost all of my day to day troubles arise from or connect with not sleeping.” The message you spread is detrimental to health, self image, and academic performance as a whole. You cannot pass this one off to society or “just the way it is,” when you bring it up so frequently.

And you say this not as a warning, not as a helpful tip, not in conjunction with any actual advice about managing your time or surviving societal demands, but as simple brute intimidation to a class of overworked, anxious, neurodiverse individuals. I find this unacceptable.

I’m trying to speak logically and objectively, but to be quite honest, this makes me so furious that I could just as easily (and certainly as willingly) fill this long a post with cursing and vitriol. I’ve restrained myself thus far, and yet I will allow myself to conclude this post with the following.

Brandhorst.

Shut the fuck up.

5 Relatable Songs of the Semester

1. I’m Not a Good Person by Pat the Bunny

This song came to me at a time when I was feeling a lot more depressed and generally useless, like, all the time. It was kind of amazing listening to a song that was just like “I don’t know why I suck so much at everything, I just do, I never follow through on anything I mean to commit to.” The tone helped? It wasn’t overly dismal or anything, just kind of an “eh, fuck it” sort of vibe, but with a really raw, honest desperation in it.

I’m not a good person
No matter what I do
My exhaustion will consume me, and – I’m too tired for the truth
I’m not a good person
I’m sure you’re not surprised
It must be pouring out my sweat glands, it must be someplace in my eyes
I don’t know why… I am this way. It’s been like this since I can remember.
I try to keep up with everything I know I should do, but then I – fall to pieces, anyway.
I don’t know why I am the way.

              I don’t actually believe that I’m genuinely a bad person, but there were a looooot of individual lines here that really hit home.

2. Dream by Imagine Dragons

Existential angst! Oh boy! This expresses a similar kind of hopelessness and confusion, but put in a different light. It’s more of a sort of “I don’t know what I’m doing, I thought there’d be more by now, aren’t I supposed to be doing great things by now? There was supposed to be more.”

And I watch from a distance seventeen
And I’m short of the others dreams of being golden and on top
It’s not what you painted in my head
There’s so much there instead of all the colors that I saw

             It’s more than that, though – there’s a general sense of sadness and loss in the world around us, just how numbing the world can be sometimes? Unlike the previous number, this song is built like a release of tension. It’s a much gentler, more graceful cathartis. I like listening to it when driving around at night, and just kind of letting it wash over me.

3. Eet by Regina Spektor

           So I first listened to this song like five years ago and I was like “This is so vague??? And I’m so confused??? Literally just tell me what you’re singing about I don’t understand what’s supposed to be implied here at all and it’s making me sad and frustrated.” And then like last year I listened to it again and it was like WHOA LOOK A SONG ABOUT DEPRESSION right off the bat. I don’t think it was meant to apply strictly to depression, like, at all, and it could probably apply to a tooon of stuff about just growing up in general, and other issues that develop as Life Progresses, but this song is 500% my vibe.

It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song
You can’t believe it, you were always singing along
It was so easy and the words so sweet
You can’t remember, you try to feel the beat

4. I’m a Ruin by Marina and the Diamonds

           So… this is my breakup song. It basically perfectly described a lot of my feelings regarding the whole matter? About how I wasn’t doing enough, even though I probably could if I just tried harder, and how I still cared very much about my partner but all in all it would be a release to be free of the pressure altogether.

I played with your heart
And I could treat you better but I’m not that smart
You still mean everything to me
But I want to be free


And I’ve tried to say
Babe, I’m gonna ruin you if you let me stay
You still mean everything to me, to me
But I wanna be free


It doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t feel fair
When I’m planning to move on and you’re still standing there
Don’t wanna keep a secret but I don’t know how to keep it fair, yeah

           And of course there are individual lines like “It’s difficult to move on when nothing was right and nothing’s wrong” and “It’s difficult to say goodbye/And easier to live a lover’s lie.” Not only did the lyrics resonate with me intensely, but the vibe of the song was perfect to help me regain confidence. It’s a release – there’s a mournful quality to it, and a pensive somberness, but the chorus is fast-paced and vibrant, and it just felt like I was shedding anxieties to listen to it.

5. Why Worry by Set it Off

            Ending on a happy note! Why Worry is about anxiety, and how stupid it is, and how paranoid we all are all the time. I relate highly to both the descriptions of anxiety itself and the reflections on how pointless and awful it is. This is a really helpful song to listen to! Like it’s actually helpful steps. Therapeutic and a total jam. A lovely confidence boost for any occasion!

           I suggest you give the whole song a listen, but here’s a really solid chunk of relatable, encouraging lyrics to close out!

Why do we insist,
On crossing bridges that do not exist?
Let’s take these issues
Step by step by step, to work it out,
Day by day by day we’re falling down,
But life goes on.
I’ve got some questions,
Are you sick of feelin’ sorry?
Uh huh,
And people sayin’ not to worry?
Uh huh,
Sick of hearing this hakuna matata motto,
From people who won the lotto,
We’re not that lucky.
Have you noticed that you’re breathing?
Uh huh,
Look around and count your blessings,
Uh huh,
So when you’re sick of all this stressin’ and guessin’ I’m suggestin’ you turn this up and let them hear you sing it.