True Gritty Realism

So Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is out in cinemas and, goddammit, I really want to see it. I have wanted to see it for trainwreck purposes for what feels like forever, and now I want to see it because it’s a thing that I can do with my time, and fuck knows I don’t do anything else with it.

But I already hate this film. I hate it because it’s dark and gritty and pretentious, and Wonder Woman does not belong in that kind of setting, and yet this is her cinematic debut and, when she gets her own film, it’ll be more of the same. I want to see a Wonder Woman film because I’m excited to see my favourite superhero finally getting her own goddamn film and because said film looks good, not because of a political impetus to support any scrap of representation she is able to get.

In short, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice makes me angry, and what I’ve been realising lately is that I am a very angry person.

A lot of people seem to have this same problem: having a lot of shit that they’re angry about, but being afraid to express it. Obviously this is a self-sabotaging cycle, and the trap I’ve found is how logical it is to be angry about shit that’s happened in your life, whether to you or somebody else. For instance, this movie. It’s logical to be angry at the fact that Wonder Woman is appearing for the first time in film as the Token Chick, logical to be angry that she’s being presented as another soulless, joyless, personality-less Strong Female Character, so on and so forth. It makes sense. But it doesn’t help. It doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, a lot of this anger is something I do to myself. I’m not a Scientologist, so I don’t believe that we choose how to feel. But I am a human being, so I know for a fact that we do choose how to utilise our feelings when we get them. Obviously there is a worldwide problem with emotional intelligence; we don’t get any kind of good, solid, reliable grounding in how to healthily deal with out feelings, and any kind of emotional intelligence we do develop seems to be mostly by chance, and that makes it very harsh to blame people for “working themselves up”, because seriously, who knows better? Yet that is what tends to happen. Especially if you don’t have an outlet. If you don’t have an outlet, then what’s your option? Just choose to not be angry? Or hurt? Or lonely? Feelings don’t come out of a vacuum. Feelings are a response. Something has to happen to trigger a feeling; they’re like any other part of our body in that regard. And yes, we can get ourselves to feel certain things by manipulating circumstances to that end, but that’s still creating a situation that we will then respond to. My point is that our feelings are not our decision. But how we handle them is. And while I certainly don’t think I have enough answers as to how I should healthily handle my own feelings – hence this rant – I do know that I have one outlet that, at least sometimes, does work.

Writing.

I’ve heard this same advice in both academic and fiction writing, because in the end the only difference between the two is who you’re trying to please and how: if you write about what makes you angry, you will write something powerful. And as it happens, while I do want to continue my shitty YA werewolf thing as a writing exercise – I want outlets for giddy happiness as well, after all – I need something that benefits from my anger, and I need the benefit of being able to express my anger.

And this would be the Christmas-themed story that I’ve had sitting on the backburner for 8 years. A first draft is done, and I have wanted to get it published for a very long time; this is definitely one of my favourite projects. And what makes it one of my favourites is that it was a therapeutic project for me, where I poured hopes, dreams and, yes, anger into. A lot of anger. Not even necessarily my own anger (though there was plenty of that), but anger in general is a huge theme in the story. Most of that has to do with memories of being a child and the kinds of obstacles I would run up against because of being a child and being treated as a child by the wider world. There’s a very long history of Christmas-themed stories that centre around hard-done-by children, and while that wasn’t a conscious decision that I made, it certainly gives the story a sense of, I dunno, “classic” status that also make me fond of it. So I’ve started re-reading it.

Long story short: I’m 2 pages in and I can’t fucking stand it, because it turns out that what my anger and passion drove me to write was a grimdark fairytale.

Like, I can’t remember the last time I read something this … tryhard. It’s painful. It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing because not only can I tell from how it’s written that it’s trying to be deep and meaningful and probe the essential truths of human emotional existence; I fucking wrote it, so I know that it was meant to be deep and meaningful and probe the essential truths of human emotional existence. And it just … it was less about telling a story, in my mind, than it was an attempt to re-create reality. Part of this is because, being a hermetic recluse, other people aren’t exactly my area of expertise. 8 years down the track, the essential truths of human emotional existence are less of a mystery to me, but not by much. This is because, 8 years down the track, I am no longer actively closing myself off from all human contact (just most human contact). So there’s a lot more than just a cathartic release of anger in this draft; it’s everything. And the result is fucking unreadable.

So maybe I need a new project. Same story, but maybe this draft actually needs to just be banished to the ether, and I’ll be better off starting again from scratch. The issue, though, is that I’ve tried that before and it hasn’t worked. But those time were not these times; I was in a very different place, had different things going on, and different things that I wanted to get out of this project. Maybe it’s been long enough that a fresh start is actually possible now.

Just as long as it doesn’t end up grimdark again. There is no situation in this day and age where that is even remotely acceptable anymore.

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