Why are we watching that?

Well, it has been a long time since I wrote a blog here, meanwhile I have been busy with another blog at HEAVEN IS HERE   (http://murielanyc.wordpress.com) and with my artwork E Pluribus at (http://www.epluribus.us). I have never been able to focus on one thing so I am finally just going with it. Whatever seems to have it’s own energy captures my interest. And for some reason I am back here again.

This week I watched the film, “Killers” with Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher and Tom Selleck. While I try to always look at things positively and refrain from critical reviews. I feel I must speak on this film and it’s genre. “Killers” is supposed to be a witty, poignant and funny film about an ex-CIA, we guess, father whose daughter falls in love with a guy who is also “licensed to kill”. The first question is – why is killing funny? The idea of constructing a comedy around the concept of killing is just wrong, and yet think of how many cartoons show one character trying to kill another over and over again.

In this film, Killers; Selleck’s character hires his daughter’s entire neighborhood and seemingly all of his new son-in-law’s co-workers to kill the son-in-law, Ashton Kutcher. I never quite figured out why. With the requisite but very thin character story arcs came a lot of killing as you would expect. By the end of the flick, Kutcher, Heigl and Selleck make-up with each other amidst a carnage of peripheral and very poorly drawn supporting characters whose deaths are so irrelevant as to be not even considered. There is not even a mention of ‘clean up’ crew or how the main characters got away with murdering about a dozen or more people. Kutcher who was seeking a normal, happy life supposedly by the end settles into that dream life; no PTSD’s or regrets as apparently his father-in-law might have had though this issue was as carelessly considered as the multiple murders.

I find myself wondering more and more what is it about violence, death and torture that so fascinates us all. There have been a spate of stories of serial torturer/murderers like, ‘The Lovely Bones’, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, and I know more that I can’t think of now – they blur together. Why do these kinds of stories capture our imagination so powerfully? I am victim to this too, despite my efforts at diligent restraint. Part of my excuse is as a student of entertainment and a professional in the entertainment industry it’s my duty to know what’s considered most interesting but I just don’t get it.

My own personal rationalization used to be that a shock to the emotional system, like a horrible act or fear of being terribly victimized shocks us into a raw sense of being. For a moment we taste that authentic Self that is our pure self. It seemed to me at first that this kind of entertainment was a little bit like a death meditation and there is a very strong and worthy tradition of death meditation in the ancient Vedic path to enlightenment. When we consider the impermanence of the flesh, when we contemplate the bones within us or life’s blood running away in the ash of the consuming fire of a funeral pyre this can lead to an awakening a sense of the true self that is beyond the form. This is a worthy meditation, but is it a worthy entertainment?

What is required in both instances whether meditation or entertainment is contemplation, self-inquiry, equanimity of emotions and a welcoming attitude to radical new views of one’s self composition. I now think that that is really not possible within the space of an entertainment. It is certainly not possible without awareness and self-inquiry. I have to admit I am a conspiracy theorist and I think much of the entertainment, and in this I include fear-mongering news media, is constructed specifically to keep us in a fearful mindset. When we are always worried, distrustful and fearful of our neighbors we are more inclined to do what we are told and to let slide the indignities of abusive and corrupt government. Remember what Goering said about war:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

I know it’s a stretch to include this quote in a discussion about entertainment but the question is really about taking responsibility for our own inner state not so that we will not be susceptible to the manipulations of power hungry leaders but so that we may control our own inner state of being. I know too many people who are now addicted to news and who get very upset by the condition of the world as presented in that sphere. Why are we watching that? Is it really useful in our daily life to be frightened several times a day, to be shouted at, to see multiple murders or torture acts or to hear about them? Is it useful to our state of being to witness these things without any conclusive aftermath or discussion of the repercussions? In the news cycle no one cares what’s going on after the terrible act or how it affects all the players, in movies the drama is past and what happens to survivors afterward is not interesting enough to be included in the entertainment. Only now for the first time in our culture is there a substantive discussion of the effect of violence on the inner state of a human being and its effect on functionality this because of so many soldiers returning from multiple wars.

This blog is about uplifting entertainment, about using entertainment to grow a sense of delight in being. How can we possibly create this model for nurturing ourselves if we reach so often for the junk thrill of fear-mongering entertainment? It is not nourishing and is in fact dangerous to our well-being. A very great and supremely loving teacher that I know once speaking on the subject of drama admonished the gathering in this way: “You are gnawing your own bones so that you may taste the sweetness of your own blood”.

The challenge is twofold on the one hand it would be so good for us all to avoid entertainment in the form of news media or other shows and films that stir up fear its related negative emotions. Alternately, we need to consider how we as media makers can come up with the next generation of entertainment and news that uplifts, nourishes and inspires us all? What does that look like and how can we make it watchable?