Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

"It's a Wonderful Life", second swat.

In response to my rant about "It's a Wonderful Life", my friend calimac provided a provocative question which I am moving up to the main journal, since I think that the question, and hopefully the answer, are significant enough to be seen generally and not buried in replies to replies.


Let me see if I understand you correctly:

So a film in which a suicidal person is miraculously saved will only further depress real-life suicidal people who don't get miraculously saved?

Putting it that way, it may sound as if I'm ridiculing the proposition, but I'm not.

I reply:

Having been there, yes, that is exactly what I say. A bit of intimate personal history not generally known: I have a tendency towards generally mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, which, before I realized what was going on, gave me a generally Scrooge-like attitude at Christmas time. However, thirteen years ago, factors came together that pushed it over into a full-blown clinical depression. There was job trouble, financial trouble, health trouble, and the dreaded "annual review" syndrome in which you look back at the past year and tote up all your shortcomings, which, that particular year seemed manifold and my own fault.

It is fashionable in some circles to denigrate depression as an illness. Most people can function, mostly, and even, as I did, put on an entirely false happy face for the outside world. However, unless you have had it, it really is not possible to adequately describe how awful it is. The only metaphor I have been able to come up with is to imagine a sort of tunnel vision, where the entire world seems to have a black mourning band around it. It is not just a profound sadness, but an actual inability to be happy (anhedonia). To bid the depressed person to "cheer up" is like asking a man with ten broken fingers to sit down at the piano and play Rachmaninoff. To go to the relatives' house for the holidays and try not to spoil things by letting on how rotten you feel requires a lot of gritting of inner teeth, but having Saintly George and Cheerful Clarence on the TV as well really did inspire me with a passionate desire to chuck the television out through the window, and then go out and stamp the remains into the snow.

Calimac also wrote:

Let me put it another way. Movies about sports competitions or other contests, in which the plucky underdog hero wins against stiff competition in the end. Do you also object to these, on the grounds that they will only discourage real-life competitors who (as usually happens in real life) do not pull off against-the-odds wins?

I reply:

As someone who was always picked last for games (for good reason--not only was I uncoordinated, I didn't care about sports), I usually just laugh ironically. Sports are so much less important than real life, I can't work up the same amount of vitriol. I do pretty much despise such stories, since they lead to young people's coaches laying the blame for losing on "not wanting it enough," or not having the "heart," --which I consider child abuse. The only honest writing about sport is in "Peanuts." Charlie Brown has great heart, he has great desire, but he just lacks native ability so there's nothing that stops him getting blown out of his socks on the pitcher's mound or struck out at the plate. As the late, great Damon Runyon said, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong--but that's the way the smart money bets."

A note to my friends: Since understanding what was happening to me, I manage my issues (I consider myself a "recovering depressive") and do achieve genuine holiday cheer these days, so there is no need to walk on eggshells in my presence. I do genuinely hope that everyone who celebrates had or will have a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Solstice, or Good Kwanzaa. If you don't feel like celebrating, I hope that you can find a "warm, dry, comfortable hole" to crawl into and wait it out.
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