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A Feel-Bad Movie
Dreamed 2009/1/8 by Wayan
I read The Laxdale Saga, about Viking families who settled Iceland a thousand years ago. As a dream freak I naturally focus on Gudrun's dreams predicting her four marriages. And two side tales: An the Black's Brushwood Belly and Herdis Bollisdotter's Don't Tread On Me.
My friend Ellen calls. Wants me to help record a music video. Hmm. I'll need to test the sound system on my computer. Haven't used it for several upgrades, except for playing CDs.
Long talk with my friend Mark too, who's making videos. All of a sudden, everyone is...
Some story-themes are naturally unpopular. Audiences prefer themes that say "relax, let go, act out!" to cautionary tales making you rethink your axioms. We've had too many real-world lessons like that in recent times.
There's a film producer who alternates between hits and duds, though all his films are equally fine stories. The duds aren't bombs--critically acclaimed, and they pay for themselves eventually by becoming cult classics--but mass audiences never materialize. They're just not feel-good movies.
I get to view his newest film in a theater. Watch the audience as much as the film...
It follows a twelve-year-old girl who's thrown into a scary world full of aliens who look much like naked human kids five or six years old--but they're adult. Nastily adult. They bite, fight, betray fiercely. And fuck like it's just another dominance-struggle. Since for them it is.
The audience is uncomfortable for four reasons.
- Those vicious children of course, but also...
- Soon after she's thrown into this world, they claw off our hero's clothes. To the aliens she's still overdressed: ties her last torn sweater-scrap round her waist. Barely any breasts, but a shirtless girl still disturbs American audiences--they'll lap up graphic gore and evil aliens, but this is what got the film a restricted rating! I do find her a little sexy, but more for her spirit than her scratched, bruised body.
- But even more feel-bad for audiences: her instinctive protectiveness toward these "children" leads her utterly wrong. Habits formed in safety and comfort are disastrous for her. She has to learn caution, stay alert, don't nurture or protect the vulnerable. No feel-good moments!
- Worst of all, she's the only likable character--and what she learns is to restrain her sympathy, be less likable. Here that's an invite to betrayal. No audience wants to hear that--even if they need to.
Really, it's a brilliantly feel-bad film.
This is the problem for dreamworkers. Weighed down by our suffering, we want feel-good entertainment. We want night-movies! But dreams, like good journalists, keep rubbing our noses in the news we need to know.
- Themes of stories matter:
Mark spoke of what elements an audience needs. A point is nice.
- Skinny girl learns caution:
Coraline and Laxdale both teach self-restraint. Mind what you wish for, value what you have!
- saw an ad for the movie Coraline. I've read the book. She sure learns.
- The Laxdale Saga follows Gudrun from a bright, precocious teen with psychic dreams to an envious, angry adult who pushes a ruinous family feud, to an old woman full of regret--but loving her granddaughter Hedris, a bright psychic teen like a new Gudrun, who ends up having a far more peaceful life--family feuds settled.
- Shirtless among mean little naked child-aliens:
I recently saw the Star Trek satire Galaxy Quest. In it, mean alien miners who look like cannibal babies (and someone makes a pun about "minors") capture our vain, horny starship captain--read Kirk. One of his crew mutters "you would find a way to get shirtless."
- The feel-bad lesson "Limit sympathy, be less likable":
No wonder I've had poor dream-recall lately. Unwelcome messages! Feel-bad lessons in wary self-examination and in being tougher with others (after a rough year where I felt let down by those I trusted) and awkward negotiations with my ambitious Shadow. I haven't really come to terms with my ambition--creative or otherwise.
- ACTION: practice visualization and will only on small, innocuous things. And act only with great caution. I know what I want, but not what I need...
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