Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | April 14, 2013

Ejecting the Film

So I made it through 45 minutes of The Dark Knight before ejecting it – though this included 3 spots of activating the FF button.

Batman

I hadn’t seen a Batman film since the very first one, with Michael Keaton, back in ’89.  (Who knew Keaton could be so sexy?)  I’m obviously not a fan of superhero films – or action films, for that matter.  Or violent films or war films of any kind.  Or films where children are abused, lost, sick, or dying.  Or films where those things happen to animals.  Call me hyper-sensitive.

But several friends and family, whose opinions I respect and who are loving and caring people, told me this Batman film was different.  This one really shows the psychological complexity of the character – the nuances and depth of the tortured heroes, Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, and the back story of their evil nemesis, the Joker.  Well, I prefer my tortured heroes without all the guns, knives or grenades, thank you.  Knowing that playing such an evil character led Heath Ledger to an early death didn’t help, either.  Even seeing Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, two of the kindest old souls in films today, playing gentle mentors didn’t rescue this film for me.  (Though Caine’s new teeth are beautiful!)

jaws

Some of us are just wired differently, I’ve come to believe.  Maybe this is why some of us become poets.  Our hypersensitivity to noise, crowds, flashing lights, and scratchy tags in clothing are just outer manifestations of a nervous system that makes us more likely to feel images of ugliness and violence deep down, causing symptoms from stomach upset to nightmares and even mental breakdowns.

I mean, it’s been 40 years since I’ve seen Jaws, but I can still see and hear vividly the moment when the girl’s leg gets bitten off by the Great White Shark.  I still see the look of horror in her eyes and hear the wrenching whimper as her body jerks beneath her in the water.  Scenes like this don’t stop haunting me – and they just involve actors in movies.  I know that actress finished the scene and probably went up onto the beach for a sandwich, but that doesn’t make the moment any less chilling in my memory.

We learn through time, the overly-sensitive types, to shield ourselves.  We turn off the TV, find quiet radio stations, select films we know will not bombard us.  We shun large concerts and festivals, or if we do attend them, we arrive early, hang toward the back or the edge, and slip out before the finale or fireworks.  I may teach in a large high school, but you’ll rarely find me in the halls during passing period.  And I’ve found ways to wiggle out of having to attend all-school events in the gym.

tire swing

Am I blocking out reality by shielding myself from so much of the world?  I don’t know.  I read 2 newspapers, scan the net for information, attend readings and lectures, and immerse myself in books of all kinds.  Must we experience ugliness and violence, even in the arts, to know that it exists?  I don’t believe so.  I’d go so far as to suggest that the more we expose ourselves to it through media, the more we perpetuate its existence in the world.  The images and sounds in our heads can have a very lasting effect.  Reality can mirror art as much as art mirrors reality.

So I’ll go onto the IMDB and read about The Dark Knight to learn all about Bruce Wayne’s psychological complexity.  I really do want to know about it – I just don’t want to have to watch him work through it while crashing his Batmobile and firing off a zillion automatic weapons in the process.

[NOTE:  The bombings in Boston the day after I posted this only underscore my conclusion.  How despicable these random acts of violence.  How unsettling to have it happen just after I wrote this post.  I’ve not watched a moment of the footage and don’t intend to — though the face of the 8 year old victim, Martin, with his toothy grin, is forever etched into my brain.]


Responses

  1. I treated myself to NOT seeing the latest Batman movie, and had only reluctantly gone to the previous one, which had left me feeling anxious and angry at myself for having sat through it. I don’t object to violence and ugliness in the arts, but I find violence unbearable when I sense the director’s sensibility is, “Whoah, isn’t this cool!?” which includes the Batman films, Tarantino, and all of the many apocalyptic movies saturating the market.

  2. Such a good point, Paul. Yes, sometimes violence and ugliness must be included in order to tell a truthful story. I do recognize that, and I honor writers and directors who understand where to draw that line. (For the record, I’ve never seen a Tarantino film and don’t intend to!) Sometimes I do wish I could stomach more, because I know there are important films I’m avoiding.

  3. We are definitely related. The worst thing about going to a movie–which i
    rarely do–is having to sit through the previews of coming attractions.

  4. Ugh — I totally agree, Jo! The previews are always way louder than the film, and they are so fast-moving that they almost make me nauseous. Usually I close my eyes.


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