lunedì, gennaio 31, 2011

I'm afraid of the television

We're watching Twin Peaks again. Well, I'm watching it again, ten years or so after the fact, and the F-word is watching it for the first time, which is a shame, because last night we got to the episode where Agent Cooper finds out Who Killed Laura Palmer, and I'm fine with not watching anymore, but we must keep going so the F-word feels like he'll understand Fire Walk With Me, which I haven't seen yet and he has. Oh well. I really like Twin Peaks, though I didn't give a rat's ass about it when it was actually on television, and so the second half of the second season really, really disgusts me. It's like poor fan fiction. Everybody just checked out. Like the last two seasons of the Sopranos. The fucking well ran dry, but it's American television so you've gotta keep the fucking oasis open until all the camels are dead. Gah.

It does remind me, though, that I really like David Lynch, and what I really like about him: there's something emotionally honest about his sort of surrealism. I've only seen two or three of his movies but Inland Empire was just the best thing since sliced bread and watching the first season and a half of Twin Peaks reminded me of what I loved so much about it. More than any other filmmaker I can think of, David Lynch manages to communicate what I reckon is really most people's actual surrealistic state of mind - this sort of in-between, 1/10th in the world, 9/10ths completely preoccupied with a more-or-less playful three-way wrestling match between the shadow and persona and animus, each of which pick up bits and pieces of the physical reality surrounding them and/or the collective unconscious to hit each other with, like professional wrestlers with metal chairs.

Most filmmakers and certainly most television writers are so procedural and observational, and that's fine so far as it goes but I don't think it reflects anybody's real relationship with the world. When you get dumped, you don't just sit there crying while mood-appropriate music plays until you feel better; a million things buzz around in your brain around the sort of central emotion of "aw shit", and it is very complex and very different from everyone else's experience of that emotion in the details while being the same in the broad design, and frankly I think it's impossible to communicate or illustrate that while maintaining any sort of 'realism' because our brains are not realistic. Nonetheless, when you watch a normal movie or television show and someone gets dumped, all that happens to communicate the emotion to you is some person sits there crying while mood appropriate music plays until they feel better.

All of which, again, is fine so far as it goes, but considering how much television-type media a Western person watches from cradle-to-the-grave - considering that unless you're off your fucking head, you have to admit that most Western people under 35 have almost certainly learnt as much or more from television than from their parents about how the world is supposed to work - well, it concerns me. It concerns me that that sort of media isn't letting people know that it's okay, probably even good, when your emotions are complex and conflicted; when it isn't letting people know that emotional procedures don't exist, and that words like 'joy', 'grief', 'guilt', 'pride', 'love' and 'hate' aren't ends in themselves or self-contained or tidy, but just very simplistic shorthand for very rich and confusing experiences.

I guess I have two real fears about this: first, that we're raising generations of perfectly normal people who are going to confuse the complex emotions that they're feeling with some sort of mental illness, and second, that eventually perfectly normal people will simply stop experiencing emotions in such a complex way. The second is probably very unlikely but it's my greatest fear that doesn't involve having my fingernails ripped off and points upward on the physical discomfort scale for me and mine. The first is probably currently rolling out in a household near you.

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