Recently, I started questioning my movie choices.
I realized that a lot of the movies we watch hurt me. Um, not that they physically jump off the shelves and hit me – that’d be really weird. Weirder than the usual weird of my life, actually.
I’ve been doing work with lots of awesome people (hellloooo, awesome people! I love you!). In a session with Goddess Leonie, I said, “How can I be full of light and joy and peace if I bombard myself with darkness and fear and ick?”
The answer came to me in a flash:
The other night, we watched Watchmen. It was generally dark and disturbing, but there was one scene that downright terrified me.
The scene with the dogs.
There’s a scene – and it’s meant to be darker than the rest, meant to be harsh, meant to freak you right the fuck out, because it’s the breaking point for one of the main characters – where there are two dogs fighting over a bone. Zoom in, and it’s a human leg bone, complete with tiny human girl shoe on the remains of a tiny human girl foot.
I nearly puked.
I felt wounded by this scene. I curled up under my blanket and shivered, tears rolling down my cheeks as Pace wrapped me in her arms.
The movie ended and I questioned why I’d watched it. Had I been enriched? No. Had I been delighted? No, quite the opposite. The experience was a net negative for me.
This bolstered my ruminations on bringing in what we seek to put out.
Then, we went to see District 9 – and my feelings were cemented.
I’m not opposed to violence. In fact, I think not being able to punch someone in the jaw when they really really deserve it is part of what’s wrong with our society. But I am opposed to extreme violence, unnecessary violence, gore, and overt excessive dark.
Won’t someone please think of the children?
There’s always been all this hullabaloo about what our kids consume. Parents wanting radio stations and television stations and internet stations to censor what people say/sing/write/perform to protect the kids.
Personally, I feel parents need to protect their own kids. Watch what they watch, consume what they consume, and they’ll be fine.
But, why do we consume things we wouldn’t want our children to consume? Why listen to something you don’t want them to hear? Why watch something you don’t want them to see?
Because they’re too young. They’re too innocent. They wouldn’t understand. They’re too fragile.
I’m fragile, and I like me this way.
Yes! Right! Exactly!
But we’ve taken in so much of it, so much of the soul-smooshing darkness and violence, that we’re numb.
We’ve lost our connections with our inner children, so we no longer see a need to protect them.
The night after I watched Watchmen and District 9, I lay awake in bed. Pace snoozed beside me, but I couldn’t sleep. I kept seeing apocalyptic visions. I kept worrying about my son (safe in Dallas with his uncle). I kept worrying about monsters under my bed or in my neighborhood or seeping through my doors. I rolled over to hold Pace, but exposing my back made my skin crawl.
I was terrified.
I thought to myself, “Kyeli, you’re old enough to know better! There aren’t any monsters under your bed or in the closet! You’re perfectly safe. Go to sleep!”
But I would never say that to a terrified child.
I would hold her and comfort her. I would assure her that I would protect her. I would tell her that she was safe – not because those monsters don’t exist, because that won’t work on a terrified child – but because I would keep her that way. And I would. I would protect her.
But I’m not protecting myself – and I need protection. I’m fragile. I’m very sensitive. I’m trusting. I’m emotional. And I’m bombarding myself with movies and other media that cause a very real sense of doom and despair, terror and eminent danger, even at times when I’m rationally perfectly safe.
Our brains don’t know the difference between a movie and a real-life experience. Movies are geared to draw us in, to blur the line. We connect with the characters, sympathize with them, hurt when they hurt and fear what they fear – and our brains think we’re right there beside them. There’s nothing in our meaty selves to separate what we see from what we think we’re experiencing – and that’s why movies work. (Books work this way, too.)
So if you watch a movie where the main character gets brutally murdered after you get a chance to connect with that character, your brain thinks you’ve just lost someone you care about – and that you’re in danger.
That’s part of the thrill.
But it’s part of the problem, too.
Cutting out the dark to let out the light.
I have decided to go on a 30-day hiatus from consuming things that make me feel less than awesome. No more horror. No more blood and gore. No more dark thrillers. No more psychological thrillers.
I feel more peaceful already. I feel like a burden that I wasn’t aware of has already been lifted. I feel more relaxed and more joyous.
The mere thought of cutting out so much terror and horror has already made space for more light to shine.
What makes you feel dim? What can you do to increase your light?