Little Big Adventure. It’s a pretty sweet community level. Unfortunately I think I broke it. You’ll note there is no level link at the beginning of this. That’s because “PlayStationNetwork is unavailable due to maintenance.” Uh-huh. That’s what they’re saying. But I know the real reason is I broke it. Sorry everybody.
I didn’t mean to. I was just cruising along collecting things when I was instructed to put on a bubble-shooting hat and jump on the bubbles. It took me a few tries to figure out that you don’t really jump on the bubbles. You jump and look down hold down R1 and bubbles lift you through the level on a lovely little bubble elevator. I liked that. It was a cool way to get around. Then I noticed that the bubbles I was shooting were adding to my score. Huh. What if I just sat there shooting bubbles? Just wedged myself against the ceiling and held down R1?
Well, a couple things happen. Your scoring multiplier goes up to a hundred. You get about forty million points. The scoring counter freezes. I’m not the only one to do this. I currently share first place with two other people who did this. But right after I did it I was summarily signed out of the PSN and it went down. So, mea culpa. I didn’t see any of that coming. Speaking of not seeing things coming…
After the jump, the wages of fear
“Wait. Pause it.”
“Please, just pause it.”
I fumbled for the DVD remote and squinted in the darkness to make sure I hit the play/pause button and not Stop. It’s a terrible remote.
“What is it?”
“Is this a horror movie?”
“Okay.” She didn’t sound convinced when she said this, but she settled back down into the couch cushions so I went ahead and un-paused the movie.
A couple more minutes passed.
“It feels like a horror movie.”
“It’s not. Really.”
“Okay.” Again not convinced, her voice full of tension.
The movie shifted to a new scene with the main character driving his young daughter in his pickup truck. The music changed. The rain outside was so thick he could only make out hazy images through the windshield.
I already had my finger on the button, anticipating that this was coming again.
“I don’t know what kind of movie this is. It feels like a horror movie.”
“It’s not a horror movie.”
“What is it?”
“Um…” I shouldn’t have been struggling at this point. I should have given up by now. But it’s so hard for me to do that, no matter how well I know her. “You’re kind of not supposed to be sure. That’s part of the point. Because he’s not sure what’s happening to him. He’s not sure what’s real and what’s not real. We’re going through something similar as we watch it. You can trust this director, though. He knows what he’s doing.”
She crossed her arms. “Well I can’t enjoy it not knowing. I’m worried something’s going to happen to the little girl and it’s tying my stomach in knots. Just tell me.”
I suppressed a sigh and told her. Which kind of killed me. We were watching one of my favorite movies of this year so far, and I wanted her to enjoy discovering it as much as I enjoyed discovering it the first time I saw it in a theater. But my wife doesn’t watch movies the way I do. I want to watch every movie I watch knowing as little as possible about it. I’m famous among my friends for avoiding spoilers and not watching trailers. I plug my ears and walk away from them at social occasions when they start talking about something I haven’t seen. They roll their eyes and call me a jerk. The trade-off is worth it.
My wife cannot watch movies this way, and I have to concede that it looks like she’s in the majority. A study came out recently that suggests that spoilers don’t ruin stories, for most folks. For many, in fact, knowing some spoilers enhances their viewing (or reading) experience. I do not understand this, but I have seen it before.
Watching movies with my mom was sometimes an excruciating experience. If I had already seen the movie, she would badger me until I told her the ending. “Does she live or not?” “I’m not telling you, Mom. Watch the movie.” “I’m turning it off if you don’t tell me.” If I hadn’t already seen the movie and therefore could not tell her, that movie was probably going off and I was going to have to finish it later after she went to bed. This is, again, mystifying to me. Especially coming from the person who determined that my first childhood movie theater experience should be going to see Jaws with her and my father.
I get not wanting to be scared. It took me many years to develop an appreciation for scary movies and horror movies. Over time I’ve learned how pleasurable and cathartic watching them can be in spite of the fact that in a way I’m suffering through them. Watching a movie like Wolf Creek, for instance, is not a pleasant experience, but it is exhilarating. While I understand why someone like my mom or my wife would want to avoid horror, however, I have trouble processing why they want to avoid suspense altogether. Isn’t enjoying the suspense, enjoying the sensation of being toyed with by a filmmaker, part of the joy of watching thrillers? The joy of watching most movies, now that I think of it, for even straight up dramas carry with them the promise of emotional suspense. Why avoid such key elements of drama?
Rather than speculate, I decided to ask my mom directly, emailing her and asking her to put her feelings about needing to know movie endings into words. This was not one of those times she comes back at me with “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when I ask her to explain something I consider quirky about her. She knew exactly what I was talking about and wrote back, almost immediately, “Let me think about it. I’d enjoy trying to put it into words.” About eighteen hours later she got back to me.
Ok, when I watch a scary or suspenseful film I am really upset for the character in danger. I hate to see people get hurt, particularly women and children who are usually helpless victims. Telling myself it is just a movie and these are actors doesn’t help because it could be real or it has happened before or could happen in the future. My stomach starts churning and I get too upset to watch, almost as if it were happening to me or some poor helpless, innocent person. I would rather not watch if I cannot find out they are safe.
Probably the key words in my description are “helpless” and “innocent.” I hate to see situations where people have no control over a horrible outcome. When I find out they are safe, I can watch most of the middle unless it is really violent and they are tortured or terrified. If it is not a good outcome, I see no reason to subject myself to pain caused by the vagaries of script writers. Helpless, innocent people get hurt all the time; there is too much of it in real time, and I do not need to subject myself to seeing it happen in a movie.
Makes sense. In fact, put that way, I kind of feel like the shoe has hopped over to the other foot. Suddenly I feel like the weird one and I should have to defend myself. Why would I want to watch a movie like Wolf Creek or Paranormal Activity? She’s right. There is plenty of horror in the world. Real horror. Why indulge in it in my entertainment?
I suppose I could try to get highbrow and explain that watching horror, or any scary movie, is a way of processing the horror of everyday life. Yes, innocent people get hurt all the time. We cannot do anything about that, so should we just despair? Or should we try to make and consume art that deals with it? Not necessarily to make sense of evil in the world or to find a way to combat it, just to process the fact of it. Evil is. We have to face that fact.
All of that, though, is just hollow justification. When it comes down to it I get pleasure from watching all kinds of movies, including scary movies and, now a bit later in life, horror movies. I’m not doing so for a higher purpose. I just like it. It is thrilling when it is done right and coming out on the other side of a well-made movie that scares me, a movie that has me looking out the windows as I watch it like Lake Mungo or even a movie that has me guessing what is real and what is not, like Take Shelter, leaves me feeling alive and catching my breath. Not unlike the way I feel after riding a good rollercoaster.
For them, folks like my wife and my mother and I have to assume many others, this journey is simply impossible. I get it a little better now. I see where my mom is coming from, in particular her point about kids being in danger. That element in movies got a lot tougher for me when I became a father, and if I sense the filmmakers are putting a child in danger as a shortcut, without clear character and story support, it ruins the movie for me. If the filmmaker knows what he’s doing, and I sense I can trust him, I can get past that. But this will never be the case for my mother, and slightly less so for my wife. They can watch a thousand crappy forensic-team dramas on television; they know for the most part that their beloved recurring characters are going to be fine. When it comes to movies, though, they simply can’t, and it isn’t worth it to make them try. So, I’ll have to keep telling them the ending. This is anathema to me. It feels awful. Taboo. Smacks of a kind of betrayal. Too bad. I have to get over it. There is no other way to reconcile the situation.
Lucky for me my wife is cool with me going off to the movies alone when I need to. This is good as I get to see movies she can’t stand, and she gets to avoid hearing her husband scream like a little girl in public.
It is also good because, well, a life without fear on the screen is just too scary to contemplate.
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