Friday, November 9, 2012

Our November Feature Film

Yesterday, I was sitting at work near Battery Park. Due to Sandy's path of rampage, the work day ended at 3 PM, which I couldn't have been more thrilled about since I had a twenty-block walk to my best (working) subway option and may have witnessed a case of assault over the last spot in the overcrowded train car that morning.

Also, the phone and heat weren't working. It's a bizarre sight, seeing the office function on half-attendance, its worker bees running to and fro in gloves and scarves (myself included). And suddenly my coworker and I looked at each other and agreed: October just flew the heck by, didn't it?

September, I think, was one of the longest months of my life, and I don't have the energy to go into why that is. The beginning of October, still in the chug of Chagim, plus nursing a cold that lasted way too long, seemed to grind to a near-halt. And then I got over my cold, handed in my first paper, visited an old friend for Shabbat, and blinked.

Now it's November.

The semester from another planet(!) is more than half over. This week, I handed in my second term paper, and I'm about to start a third. I feel like the tense few seconds after an intense action sequence in a movie, when the protagonist has lost the bad guy tailing him, and emerges from the vehicle to look around and make sure the danger has truly gone.

So cautious. But when I look around, the cop car or assassin's truck or whatever's been chasing the action hero isn't in my line of sight. I wonder for a minute if it's just waiting for the audience to exhale before it jumps onscreen again, but for the moment, it looks like I've got a second to breathe before getting back in the car and rushing to rescue the hostage or deliver the priceless artifact or pick your movie cliche.

Life's a little like the movies that way.

It's the age old question. Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? Wonderfully horrible pun courtesy of Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis:

I couldn't resist. But anyhow...

Do we place such importance on certain life events, behaviors, pleasures, and wishes because we're wired to do it, or do we do the action because that's what we see in the media? Do we hold back what we're thinking because we're told that talking and revealing too much is a sign of weakness? After all, the hero of the story doesn't cry when he's hurt. He rips open his own shoulder and claws the bullet out with his bare fingers. Um, right. When I think of real life injury, I think of when I had to remove a splinter from my (male) friend's finger, only to have him whine and gasp that I was killing him slowly.

Do girls aspire to be thin, pretty, and fashionable because that's what's attractive, or because the girls on TV who are like that get all the guys?

And most of all, are we photoshopping ourselves like they do in magazines? Airbrushing the truth like celebrities on the red carpet? Is the real us too raw, too scary, to get ratings and put butts in the seats? Increasingly, there's an emphasis on TV shows, movies, and books that are successful because they're "real." But those aren't the ones we watch when we want to feel good. Those are the ones we relate to and draw parallels between ourselves and the characters. Often we decide they're too depressing. We're all suckers for a happy ending.

This friend and I were watching 'Moulin Rouge' last week. I had seen the movie loads of times, but it was her first viewing. We're both art majors, so we were fixated on the gorgeous visuals and cinematography (as dizzying and rushed as they are at times). And then, about halfway through the movie (spoilers!) she turned to me and said "Oh no! This is going to end sadly, isn't it?"

I pointed out that they reveal the end of the movie literally within the first ten lines of the opening scene.

Later, we were discussing the movie with another friend. "I always stop the movie halfway through," she said, "I don't like the ending." It's kind of interesting, since one of the plot points of the movie is a heated argument over how a play they're performing should end. The playwright's happy ending is the financier's tragedy, and vice versa.

And so today I'm wondering, are we in our situations for the sake of a happy ending? I'm not talking about living in the moment versus living for the future. I'm talking about when things get tough. When we work on a project and realize it's not going to turn out the way we wanted: do we scrap the project, or, as Tim Gunn always says, do we "make it work?"

For my part, I'm going to keep trying to make this semester work.

And now I'm going to stop typing, because my fingers are freezing and it's time to put gloves back on.

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