Thursday, March 5, 2009

Knowledge

Last week I got a call from a 13-year-old friend of Walker's whose parents live wild and free, occasionally asking for some of his paper route money to pay the mortgage and sometimes stranding him without a ride. He was stranded and the temperature was below freezing, so he told me apologetically that he felt like it was too cold to walk home (a couple of miles away). During the ride, he said he'd been to see Slumdog Millionaire, along with his 8-year-old sister. Wow, I said, that movie's too intense for me. How did you like it? It was fine, he said, and then started discussing video games with Walker.

I can't watch torture scenes, which is what I think rules out seeing Slumdog Millionaire in the theater (at home I can fast forward). There's something about watching one human intentionally hurt another that repels me at a very basic level. It's like the urge to vomit; I can't just tamp it down. And I don't really want to get used to it.

I don't watch horror movies for the same reason. Maybe I could learn not to be so horrified by them, but why? Do I really need to be more hardened and cynical? It's like this poem, "Knowledge," by Kim Addonizio:

Even when you know what people are capable of,
even when you pride yourself on knowing,
on not evading history, or the news,
or any of the quotidian, minor, but still endlessly apparent
and relevant examples of human cruelty--even now
there are times it strikes you anew, as though
you'd spent your whole life believing that humanity
was fundamentally good, as though you'd never thought,
like Schopenhauer, that it was all blind, impersonal will,
never chanted perversely, almost gleefully,
the clear-sighted adjectives learned from Hobbes--
solitary, poor, nasty, brutal, and short--
even now you're sometimes stunned to hear
of some terrible act that sends you reeling off, too overwhelmed
even to weep, and then you realize that your innocence,
which you had thought no longer existed,
did, in fact, exist--that somewhere underneath your cynicism
you still held out hope. But that hope has been shattered now,
irreparably, or so it seems, and you have to go on, afraid
that there is more to know, that one day you will know it.

Certainly people who know me would not describe me as a wide-eyed innocent. So why is it that, increasingly, I feel pushed to the side of the mainstream movie audience? Am I going to end up seeming quaint, like my parents, who are so old and strait-laced that they can't enjoy a joke by Dane Cook just because of his language?

3 comments:

Ryan said...

I say whatever works for you. I can take in the torture(big fan of "24" ;) but I don't like anything intentionally gory, like horror movies. Never have and never will. It's all a personal preference I guess.

Ryan

lemming said...

Can't do torture either. We as a society expect our members to become inured to sex and violence at ever earlier ages.

Jeanne said...

Ryan, I think our preferences--or at least our tolerances--are being changed by what we watch. But Lemming, having said that, I'm not sure that I think people can get "inured" to sex, unless we're talking about the stereotypical story of a prostitute who imagines that a sex act is happening to someone else.