Dissect the Romantic Comedy

Anhedonia.

It’s frustrating. It’s made me stop consuming as much movies, TV and video games as I used to. I just don’t see the point of wasting my time with any of that stuff if I’m not even able to enjoy it.

It has, however, left me with some free time to make some revelations about why I’ve been feeling so shitty.

Pop culture has influenced my life and the lives of most people who are close to me. In my case to a dangerous extent.

It’s not hard to predict how a movie is going to end because we’re so familiar with all of the Hollywood tropes. We all know what is supposed to happen and that’s why it’s so unsettling when a screenwriter or director shaves against the grain and does something unexpected.

boom-headshot-o

But… but I’m the Hero!

I think a lot of my unhappiness stems from my inability to differentiate real life from the movies. I guess I’m just expecting real events to follow the same structure of Premise->Conflict->Resolution. Having things not turn out the way Hollywood has told me they’re supposed to has left me feeling empty and unsatisfied.

I find it difficult to open up to people, mostly out of embarrassment. I’m legitimately worried that if my friends knew how crazy I really am they wouldn’t want to be my friends. On the rare occasions when I’ve shared these thoughts with people, those select few, have told me they feel the same way, albeit to a lesser degree. We’d all want to find love via meet cute or to have all our problems just magically solve themselves but very few of us expect it to happen.

Romantic comedies all play out the same way.

The Boy meets The Girl. He falls in love and has to win her heart. He messes up in some way that angers The Girl and she runs away. The Boy then has to look deep within and discover some hidden truth and when he makes this realization he goes after The Girl and wins her back. All is forgiven and they live happily ever after.

That’s the way things are supposed to happen.

That, I am only now prepared to (shamefully) admit, was what I was expecting to happen.

tumblr_lz9qleCbgt1qm7heqo1_500It was 3:30AM and I was staring, red eyed, at my ceiling trying to fall asleep. The aggressively loud sex noises coming in through the wall I share with my neighbour were exacerbating my insomnia. I found myself involuntarily wailing from emotional agony and when the crying left me exhausted and dehydrated I laboriously came to my moment of clarity.

There’s another version of the story.

As much as we complain that there are no original ideas in Hollywood and everything follows a formula, there are some slight variations.

Here’s an example.

The Boy meets The Girl and falls in love but she is already with The Other Guy. The Other Guy is cruel and doesn’t deserve her but her misguided devotion to their relationship is the only obstacle standing in the way of The Boy and The Girl experiencing True Love. The Girl goes through trails until she makes this realization and she leaves The Other Guy and falls, lovingly, into The Boy’s arms. They live happily ever after. The Other Guy ends up alone.

I was feeling like the world didn’t make sense. I was upset about the events and circumstances in my life but in truth, because of the lack of the Hollywood Ending I’d come to expect, I was less upset by what happened and more or less just puzzled by how unnatural it all felt.

It was as if the laws that govern realty had an off switch and someone had flipped it. The feeling of life not playing out like the movies, not playing out the way it`s supposed to was as unnatural and disorienting to me as if gravity randomly went away.

Now I have a different understanding. Things are playing out the way they’re supposed to. I had just cast the wrong people in the wrong roles.

With this revelation the world seems to make a bit more sense, and I feel a little less sad.

Maybe even slightly happy.

In the meantime I’m going to take this bit of wisdom and use it to help me reconcile some lingering issues but I’m also going to go back to absorbing as much media as I used to only now, I suspect, I’ll be enjoying it almost as much as I did before.

I don’t know who’s reading this. If you’re like me you probably like video games. Some people may hear “Video Games” and think Pac Man and Donkey Kong not realizing that today’s games have complex narratives that can deliver quite and emotionally satisfying punch.

One such game is Braid. It came out in 2008 and has been one of the most critically and financially successful indie games ever. It plays much like your basic run-of-the-mill platformer with one exception. You play as Tim, a young man with a mysterious past who lives with deep regrets but has been given the power to rewind time. You can use this ability to fix any mistakes you make along the way, like accidentally falling into a pit of lava or flipping a switch you weren’t supposed to.

In the game Tim has to rescue the princess from a monster and in the last level you have to work together. You are both running away from the monster and she is flipping switches to raise bridges and open doors allowing you to proceed.

It’s only when you get to the very end does the game take control and replays the entire final level from the reverse perspective. When you watch it play out backwards, the princess is actually putting up doors and dropping bridges to try to keep Tim from catching up with her.

It’s only then that Tim realizes he’s the monster.

The princess is gone. She doesn’t need to be recused, and she certainly doesn’t need him.

Check it out, the music and art are beautiful.

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