Thursday 3 July 2008

The Terminator

A couple of days ago, I was talking with a friend about movies. I mentioned that there was one movie - Requiem for a Heavyweight - that I watched once and couldn't stand to watch again. The first time I saw it, I couldn't stop crying. Even now, I avoid watching it - it is burned in my memory in any event.
However, if you go to my profile there is only one movie there - Terminator. I have lots and lots of favorite movies, but Terminator is the one movie that speaks to me at some visceral level. We also touched on 8MM, another of movies that matters to me more than just as a movie. It must have been the juxtaposition of discussing those movies that made me realize yesterday what purpose Terminator and 8MM served for me and why the other one was an anathema. It is that both Terminator and 8MM are about terror, horror and hopelessness but there is hope - not a happy ending but a future.
Terminator was the movie that kept me from running at times. When the drive to hit something, to blow up the world, to try and keep the demons from overwhelming me, watching the Terminator has always managed to alleviate some of those feelings. It is jolt after jolt, but when Sarah Connor hits that button and screams "Die motherfucker" (that is what I always remember her saying, I think it's a paraphrase) and the awesomely relentless machine dies, it has always made me go "Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!".
8MM is also a relentless movie. It goes from horror into deeper horror. It is so real; it is filled with sad, miserable people and evil, and the banality of evil and the users of people's pain. It has a few flaws like making the murderer of the girl look like George Costanza (there was probably a reason for that & the critic in me can figure it out, but that isn't the point for me). I saw it opening night and was stunned. I needed to go back a week later to get a handle on my feelings. Hope was not a word that I would have attached to it at the time.
But two days ago that was the word I used to differentiate between these movies and Requiem for a Heavyweight - hope. I realized that both Terminator and 8MM were about surviving evil. They are also about how evil changes you. You never see the world the same way again. That is one of things that I have always grappled with. I see the world so differently from most people. It used to upset me so much that the "civilians" just "didn't get it". (Frankly, I don't think that they want to get it - they have to know it's there - ignorance is bliss???)
It took me a long time to name what happened to me as evil. I used other words for it, I analyzed it, explained it in development terms, understood it from the perspective of the "academic". I refused to use the term "evil" because of its Christian use; because I believed that everything is "social construction" and there is no "evil". But I use it now. I don't care to define it. Those of us who have been in hell and survived know what it is. We have a hard time dealing with it. Sometimes I think that I just didn't want to believe it. Because if there are truly evil people out there, then where is the hope - and we are often awash in hopelessness. It feels like it will never go away. I lucked out. I found a therapist who walked the distance with me and I don't believe that it was easy for him. He just knew that the truth was in me, and seldom offered me the platitudes of therapeutic intervention. When I was broke, he didn't charge me; when I could pay a little, he accepted that; when I could pay it all, I suspect his accountant was happier. Not everyone is that lucky. There are bad therapies and bad therapists, there are drugs, there is alcohol, there is sex - they are all ways of surviving. And we want to survive. It is just difficult when the world at large wants to avoid us or at least the truths that we hold in our souls.
I don't have the answers for anyone else. My experience of hell was mine. I don't even know if anyone is reading the blog. It doesn't matter. But I do know that every now and then, I would run across something that helped me. Other people's experiences, the novels of Andrew Vachss (more on that sometime), things that enraged me, and movies like Terminator and 8MM that offered me hope in some unexpected way. May this blog do that for someone else.
It has been almost a year since I needed to watch Terminator. I've stopped running. After almost half a century (believe it!), I feel happy (at least, I think that's what they call it) and am not worried that it is going to go away. It is strange. I can't say that I am used to it yet and I marvel at it. There is a future, it is full of who knows what, and tomorrow will come when it comes.

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