Thursday, October 28, 2010

The winds of change

Outside the wind is howling. It roared last night for hours and I laid in bed wondering if a tree would come crashing through my bedroom window doors. There is something foreboding about a windstorm. The limbs of the trees sway and bend, they arch and reach towards you. Fence doors swing open and pound against the house, garbage cans fall over and bounce on the ground, and noises you can't explain echo down the hallway. It definitely feels like Halloween is approaching. And in a way the scariest thing about scary movies or Halloween is uncertainty. We are unsure of what is going to happen next.

Will Micheal Myers be in the closet? Or is Freddy waiting until we close our eyes? The fear of the unknown is what scares us. If we saw it coming it wouldn't be quite as frightening. Look at Paranormal Activity. The basics of fear is waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and then when it's about to come, nothing. Then we laugh at ourselves for being so afraid when nothing happens. We chastise ourselves for overreacting, then BOOM! There he stands, ax in hand, and well we scream our throats raw and forget how to run. So the metaphor for life I guess would be that in life we wait and wait for that event to happen that we blow up in our minds. Then when it doesn't happen we breath a sigh of relief, only to have it happen right afterwards. Maybe it is sudden and maybe it just happens slowly and we suddenly realize it.

Most people in horror films are in unfamiliar territory; new house, on a trip, in the woods, or in a dream. They are uneasy because life is uneasy. Something doesn't feel right. Something recently happened. It's the uneasiness of life that leads to the upcoming horror. Anticipation that maybe everything isn't all it seems to be. We've all felt those moments. Maybe an amazing thing just happened to us and we wonder why. What is the reason? And what is going to be the fall-out? Because let's be honest, we expect the other shoe to drop. Even our celebrities, sports heroes, and politicians in their highest moments are expecting that cheering crowd will abandon them at some point. They are usually right. We only appreciate these individuals more after life has thrown them around a little bit, humanized them in our eyes, and let us relate to them. Even if relating requires them to endure a personal hell to get there. Our religions tell us we need to suffer to be rewarded, so we expect those we pay to entertain us, or vote on to lead us, to endure this suffering. If they don't we don't relate, and in this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, TMZ, and self-idolization we NEED to relate.

It's funny that movies that are more powerful to us now have to almost include us in the film. The strength of Paranormal Activity is it could happen to any of us. We can be those people. Unlike older horror films which were more brutal and gruesome in display, we now are more fearful when we are involved. When it is something we see ourselves in. Gone are the days when celebrities were kept in the distance outside of their films by the mainstream media. There are no free passes. No politician will get the breaks that John F. Kennedy got from an adoring press. The public will no longer stand for it. And in fact truth be told, the less we know about the politician's life, the less likely we are to vote for them. The new politician needs to be an open book expressing all their likes, dislikes, dirty laundry, empathy, heart ache, and also their views on Health Care, the Free Trade Agreement, North Korea, and their tax policies. Then we can decide. Yet if we see you windsurfing in Nantucket in a full body suit, sorry bud, that I can't relate to!

So next time you flip on a horror film look for the key elements and appreciate the parallels to our own lives. The psycho killer could just be your eventual termination, or break-up, or loss of a family member (hopefully not by the psycho killer). It is that catastrophic event that can change us and put us off balance. Do we cower in the closet and just count down the minutes to our demise while we hear the killer's steps approaching us? Or do we face the challenge head on like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, Neve Campbell in Scream, and Jennifer Anniston in the Leprechaun (ha, horrible horrible film)? That is up to us.

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