Monday, May 15, 2017

Beware of Darkness (beware of darkness)

(If you're new here, this column consists of weekly letters written to my grandchildren, who exist, to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead, and my great-grandchildren, who aren't here yet.)

[Gentlereaders, please forgive the fact this column is late. The rumor that I was once again abducted by aliens from Tralfamadore is true. For the record, the Tralfamidorians are a very gentle and civilized race. Their "abductions" are scheduled at the abductees convenience. Their probe consists of providing their guests with ice cold whole milk and fresh from the oven peanut butter swirled brownies while asking pointed questions. 

Unfortunately, while their technology is bulletproof, their field interviewers (FI) are chosen for their entity skills and are notoriously technochallenged. Long story short, my FI punched the wrong settings into the Wayback machine and now my life is running almost a day and a half late. Sorry.]  

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies and Great-Grandstickies,

I recently watched a "Netflix Original" movie called Small Crimes. I discovered it accidentally while surfing around for a food movie, my current supply of acceptable food TV programs being temporarily exhausted. Fortunately, new TV shows, new episodes of existing shows and new movies, are always in the pipeline. Unfortunately, most aren't worth watching.

A food movie or (much more likely) food TV? Yes. And no, I'm not referring to food porn. See, I eat most of my meals alone in my lair/garret for a variety of reasons not interesting enough to bother you with and I like to watch TV shows while I eat. Always have. Movies are my (distant) second choice.

[No, I'm not lonely, so let's set that tired old cliche' aside immediately. There are six people that I love (and a very stupid cat that I have mixed feelings about) living downstairs at the moment. Sometimes I eat with them (the people, not the cat), mostly I don't. It's complicated, but as I mentioned, not interesting.]

As I have aged I've become quite picky about TV shows. I don't know that it's because I've become all that much smarter or more sophisticated. I am certain that hedonic adaptation (a cool way to say jaded) and formulaic, same old-same old writing has a lot to do with it.

Also, of course, the need to fill all that time on all those channels that result in shows like the one that features people with geographically induced speech impediments that hunt alligators for a living.

Also, of course, the need to fill all that time on all those channels that result in shows like the one that features people, one man and one woman per episode, who meet for the first time when they are taken to an appropriately primitive/scary/dangerous/etc. location.

They take off all of their clothes and spend the next 21 days trying to survive while making their way to where they will be picked up. All of the couples apparently have deformed genitals and all of the women apparently suffer from deformed breasts. Everyone has nice bums though.

Full disclosure -- I've only watched the show for about half a minute, a half dozen times or so. Channel surfing flotsam you see. A quick bit of googling turned up the fact there are no million dollar prizes and I was unable to discover if they all suffer from the same disease.

[Disease? What disease? Where did that come from? asks Dana, imaginary gentlereader.]

Simple logic. If they all suffer from deformed genitals, and, all the women have deformed breasts, and, all the newly formed couples are willing to appear on the same TV show, and, they can't win a bunch of money, and, they are all so deformed that while they are willing to get naked on TV but their genitals (and the women's breasts) must be pixilated out because they're so offensive, obviously, it must be a show about the victims of some sort of disease that, while it deforms genitals and women's breasts, mercifully doesn't affect the rest of the body. It must be a very empowering experience for the victims.

[Dana stares at me for a couple of beats while blinking rapidly and then says, They aren't diseased, the producers use pixelation so the audience can't see the couple's genitals or the women's breasts.]

Dana obviously makes no sense whatsoever. Why would you take your clothes off in front of (potentially) the whole world if you didn't want people to view your naughty bits? Sheesh. Well, anyway, this column is about unremittingly dark entertainment, not diseased exhibitionists, so I'll move on.


The movie, the "Netflix Original" movie called Small Crimes mentioned above, is Netflix blurbed as "He thought he could move on, but the past isn't done with him yet. A darkly comic study of redemption and consequences."

Now, my life can be described as a darkly comic study with no shortage of significant consequences. However, I don't have/haven't had much need for redemption. It's not because I'm not a sociopath/psychopath, it's because I've gone out of my way, for the most part, to only sin against myself and leave my fellow H. sapiens out it as much as possible.

I mention this because I wish to point out that I'm wired this way, that it's my nature. It does not require a daily moral/ethical struggle against the forces of darkness. Fortunately for me, and mine, and the other kids on the playground, I'm a nice guy.

I'm not bragging. I think most of us, given a decent milieu, a decent zeitgeist, are nice people.

[Granted, I could've said, under the right circumstances, but milieu and zeitgeist sound much cooler, don't you think? Sorry, you know how I get...].

We all have our dark/hypocritical sides of course. But we have to share the playground with the other kids which serves (for most of us at least) to help keep us on the (more or less) straight and narrow. Life is occasionally a horror movie, life is occasionally bliss. Mostly it's just another boring/overscheduled/stressful (talk about cognitive dissonance!) day.

So, why is so much of our entertainment, so dark?

 "He thought he could move on, but the past isn't done with him yet. A darkly comic study of redemption and consequences."

At the risk of being accused of being a spoiler, Bonkercockie! There's very little comedy and nobody is redeemed of anydamnthing. The antihero protagonist looks the consequences of his dickish deeds in the eye -- and then doubles down. After wreaking havoc all throughout the movie he has a chance to walk away, with a pocket full of money -- but doubles down again. Surprise! this ain't gonna' end well.

As to the totally inaccurate blurb: I guess it's better than, "A depressing, occasionally slightly funny movie with a depressing ending about a few days in the life of a dick." That is, if you're Netflix, you paid for the movie, and you'd like someone to actually watch it.

[Dana, Marie-Louise, and Iggy, nervously looking past each other and at the ground, share in an awkward silence.

Sorry, sometimes you absolutely must call a spade a spade, or, a d-word a d-word. Note how quickly my auto censor kicked and switched to d-word. We must be ever vigilant lest we drain profanity of its power by treating all words as if they were the same.]

But, as usual, I've taken you for a (hopefully entertaining) drive down Digression Drive before finally getting to the point. Why is so much of our entertainment, so dark? That's easy, the More Paradox.


In most of the USA, and much of the rest of the world, a daily life and death struggle just to get by is no longer job one. In fact, this planet now has a weight loss industry, and business is good. In fact, America (having lived here for 63 39 years this is the country I'm particularly familiar with) has the most prosperous poor people on the planet, probably the most prosperous poor people of all time.

We're wired genetically/evolutionarily... common sensically to want more. More food/sex/toys/etc. because more might keep me alive for the rest of the week and not just for the rest of today.

BIG BUT.

It's our nature to believe that once we obtain enough more, that will finally be enough, and we will be happy. However, once we have enough, which is clearly to be preferred to not enough, we still aren't happy. Or rather -- we're happy sometimes, unhappy other times; mostly we drift between the two -- just like we did before we had more.

Dark entertainment provides cathartic compensation for anyone and everyone that realizes at some point they will never be happy all the time, that you can't have happy without unhappy. That is, everyone.

The bad news is that if you don't believe that there's an afterlife waiting, where you will finally be happy, or if you don't know the secret of a happy life (someone(s) to love who loves you back, and interesting work) you may require increasingly dark entertainment to cope with the knowledge you will not, at some specific point, be happy.

That's a RBFD, and that's why there's gonna' be a part two. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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