Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why do we watch disturbing things?

And I don't just mean the news. (Although that in itself is disturbing. Personally, I prefer reading Rappler online for my news. Less of the everyday rape and killings and everyday crimes that are usually on the news.) (Another side note: Yes, we watch the news to be informed. To know what's going on around us. But when we watch or listen to nothing but bad news, is that really the mental state we want to have while going about our daily lives? Life is tough enough without adding more negativity and doom and gloom into our lives.)

I just finished watching the first episode of Black Mirror Season 1. Was it disturbing? Disturbing is too calm a word to describe what I just saw. I saw a meme before with someone pouring holy water into their eye and the caption: "WTF did I just watch?" I can't say it was horrible though. It was like watching a horror movie that gradually unfolded before my eyes and I confess to being riveted to the screen of my laptop. Spoiler alert: There's this line towards the end of the episode when the news anchor says something to the effect of, "The whole world watched. We also participated in it." And, uncannily, it felt like a line straight out of The Never Ending Story, only this time in a more adult and grotesque context, that, yes, I was also just as much part of the horror that happened and I also stood by and watched it unfold. The storyline is clean and simple. The acting superb. The emotions of the people in the episode were exactly how you expected people to react, and I was feeling the same exact emotions as I watched and "participated" in it too.

Which brings me to the title of this blog post. Why do we watch disturbing things? Why do we read them? Why do we torture our souls so much in fiction, as if reality wasn't disturbing or hard enough to deal with.

Maybe it's the same reason people, especially Pinoys, love to watch soap operas. We love the drama. We love to be carried along by our emotions, safe, as a viewer, and yet, feeling anger towards the bad guy, feeling empathy and sympathy for the heroine trying to get together with her true love.

I feel numb, actually. It's like watching a horror movie and you're all screamed out. And, yet, more alarming, to me, is the fact that part of me is desensitized already.

That's what Hollywood and reality shows and even all these new tv drama shows are always racing against isn't it. The audience want more blood, more gore, more disturbing plot twists. And what's scary about the Black Mirror episode I watched is that there wasn't even a need for plot twists, just a calm, organized, inevitable playing out of the fate that destiny has handed out.

A story starts with that, I guess. What if? What if this happened? How will you get out of it? Do you get out of it? And what if you couldn't, would you?

I don't know if I have the stomache or the guts to be a writer. In fact, I find myself often in silence. So much so that it's hard for me to even start a conversation past, "How are you?" or "Kamusta?"

But maybe I just need to remember the stories I really like, the ones I love that I could watch over and over again. Not the ones that I watch once and traumatize me for life.

If that makes me less of a writer, so be it.

I once had a professor ask at the beginning of his class the question, "What is literature?" I honestly can't remember what or if he even gave us an answer. But I remember what a classmate answered, "Literature is what I like." The professor goes on and says that my classmate, being part of the middle class, feels that he has the right to judge what he likes, but that he is actually a product of his upbringing and social class.

Well, pardon the expression, screw it. I like what I like too. And, sadly, I guess I won't be watching any future episodes of Black Mirror in the near future.

P. S. I just wanted to see this episode where a woman talks to a computer where her friend or her husband's personality had been uploaded to. There was this news report about a woman who couldn't deal with the death of her best friend. So, this company uploaded his personality to a machine, a computer, I suppose, based on his text messages to her. Friends and family of the deceased man were disturbed enough to both want to "talk" to him again or not on the machine. The photos that went with the article were from an episode of Black Mirror that had the same premise. So, if anyone reads this and wants to share the title of the episode, I'd appreciate it.

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