Art is like moisturizer. It nourishes the mind and refreshes our capacity for emotion and empathy, while simultaneously working to create a better, cleaner version of ourselves for the future. It can wash away the toxic thoughts we have or it can call to attention the flaws in our being, whether we choose to ignore them or not.
And in a much more real way, art isn’t actually like moisturizer at all—in fact, they are pretty much two separate things entirely. This awkwardly-placed metaphor was forced in here because it will become relevant later, and that’s pretty much it. Go ahead and put it at the back of your mind while I change pace and circle back to it. Go ahead.
Art—specifically, the art of film—is a powerful outlet for emotion. For this reason, I call myself a cinephile. Film can make me experience what I normally wouldn’t, stirring an entire spectrum of emotions within me, from deep despair to unadulterated joy. The emotion I get most from film however, is anger. Pure. Raw. Passionate. Anger. Like I’m-on-the-freeway-and-STAY-IN-YOUR-F***ING-LANE-TOYOTA-CAMRY-CAN’T-YOU-SEE-I’M-USING-THIS-ONE anger. The amount of rage hiding in my heart at any given moment scares me sometimes, because I don’t ever think of myself as an angry person. I’m typically somewhere between calm, sad and psychotically energized—but not often angry.
This anger has nothing to do with film itself. This anger is a product of the communal nature of the consumption of film, the obligatory presence of other people in a movie theater that I would much prefer to be completely devoid of in life. People who crinkle their little snack bags in silent moments, families who go into crisis mode unfailingly around the 90-minute mark, and sociopaths who have to comment every time they have a prediction about an impending twist or a character’s next move or something they just connected or literally anything else just shut up SHUT UP—I’m sorry for the rant. Just stop doing these things. There’s nothing worse than being ripped from immersion in a story just to be reminded that Brenda, sitting three rows back, is really in the mood for some Sour Patch Kids. It’s not hard to open your candy before the movie, and it’s not hard to sit still for two hours and enjoy something that you literally paid to entertain you.
You guessed it—I’m fun to watch movies with.
I understand that my anger is irrational and that it’s unnecessary to be this dramatic about these small distractions that have been a part of film culture for decades, but it doesn’t feel that way when it happens. For that reason, I make an effort to see films at the least popular times in the hope that so few people will be there that I may as well be alone.
I did this with the latest Star Wars, opting to see it two weeks after it opened, on a Thursday, at four o’clock in the afternoon. The theater remained beautifully quiet for the length of the runtime, and I really enjoyed my experience as well as the film itself (except for the casino planet. The casino planet sucks). The next night, I was invited to see it again—at eight o’clock on a Friday night. To be clear, that’s prime time for disaster. But having seen the movie once, I decided it would be good for me to see it again in a more populated setting, if only to say that at least I gave it a shot.
Maybe I’m just unlucky. Maybe the gods hold me in disfavor. I don’t know. What I do know is that on that fateful Friday night at eight o’clock, I just happened to sit next to the itchiest woman in the world. As the opening text crawl rose into the stars, the woman next to me sat forward in her chair and relentlessly scratched the leathery, ashy (read: loud) skin on her lower back with her long, manicured nails for what had to have been at least 10 minutes. The benefit of the doubt was nowhere to be seen in my eyes, reflecting the burning balls of fiery gas on the screen before us. In addition to her itching, the woman four inches to my left made the distinct choice to wear two armfuls of bangles, knowing full well that with every tormented scratch at her back, she was jingling like Christmas f***ing morning. This continued for the rest of the movie.
This experience was obviously abnormal, and yet the sheer anger it stirred in me is comparable to more typical moments of bag crinkling and loud whispering. I try to stay home and watch movies by myself, but my roommate walking in at the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and asking, “Who’s that space baby?” is just as infuriating as a mistimed laugh in the theater behind me after Leonardo DiCaprio finds his son’s body in “The Revenant.”
The problem, of course, is my own. I shouldn’t let others ruin art for me, especially not for these small and petty reasons. I can’t treat movies like an escape from humanity, then expect a film to give me an authentic human experience on the screen. My desires are hypocritical, and they defeat everything that art stands for. Art is defined by how it impacts us—all of us, including women who desperately need moisturizer for their backs—and not just the snobs. Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum and shouldn’t be expected to, in this exceptionally human world. It isn’t supposed to be about anger. And most importantly, art isn’t about what isn’t. It’s about clearing up the meaning of what is.
In that way, art is a lot like moisturizer. But I’m pretty sure that’s the only way.
Jaxson Floberg is a Trinity sophomore. His column, "filling the void," runs on alternate Mondays.
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Jaxson Floberg is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Mondays.